The Debut (2000) Poster


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A fresh take on the immigrant experience in the movies
noralee17 November 2002
I went to see the Filipino-American "The Debut" because I make a point of seeing any ethnic coming-of-age movie, as I'm curious to see how they compare to the Jewish experience in movies, including last year's Asian Indian-American films "ABCD," and "American Chai," the Greek-American "Astoria," and one of my all time faves from a few years ago the Korean-Canadian "Double Happiness."

Like all movies in this genre (usually for semi-autobiographical reasons), the conflicted lead wants to be an artist rather than what his parents plan for him.

A particularly original angle is that the main character is younger than usual, a high school student way immersed in MTV culture, from comic books, heavy metal and hip hop language, and, of course, embarrassed by his family's cooking and other traditions. The titular event is his sister's coming-out party, which becomes an evening of ethnic discovery for him.

Unlike the older generation of immigrant vs young artist movies like "The Jazz Singer," the ethnic culture here is not all retrograde but is lovingly shown in class and generational diversity and warmth, while showing the conflicts the parents face as well. The political debate among the teens as to whether the lead is a "coconut" is a bit forced but interesting.

The variety of dance scenes leave the realism a bit as they are as choreographed as in the cheerleader satire "Bring It On" but they are fun. The naturalness of the actors in supporting roles makes up for some of the amateurishness in their performances, and the leads are charming.

I asked director Gene Cajayon, who was at my showing, how could it be that such a gathering would attract kids from across class lines. He explained that such Filipino family events bring together a large slice of the community as friends of the family, as here the dad works in the post office and the uncle is a doctor.

The closing credits are open-hearted-- amusingly and passionately thanking the myriad people with the explanations of what they did to help.
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Filipinos On Film
Toxic_Sausage28 September 2003
I must say I did enjoy this movie. Not so much that it had Filipinos such as myself in it , but more because it was about Filipino youth growing up here in the USA dealing with their own ideas vs their parents. Why the medical field all the time?

Yes, it did generalize the different types of Filipinos that I come across but the story was deep enough to for even my parents to enjoy. Being born and raised in a normal west suburb of Chicago I did sense the conflict that Ben, the lead, had in this movie. However, I never found it to be a stuggle in life due to my heritage. Also, this movie will give my relatives in the Philippines a view of my world that they never really see.

No, this movie is not Oscar calibur but I give it a thumbs up for effort and conviction...
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A Wonderful Flippin' film!
Dante_girl29 June 2002
I am a filpino myself and I was really excited to watch a movie on the big screen about filipinos. Dante Basco(Ben Mercado) delivers a great performance along with his 3 brothers, Darren, Derrick, and Deion. This movie was very life-touching. About how your life can change in one night. And I was happy to get some ideas for my debut party. So if you wanna see something different and unique for a change, go see it now!
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bmwboy15 September 2003
After all the Pilipino hype surrounding "the Debut", during it's "debut" a couple of years ago, being filipino american I decided it was my duty to drive over to Blockbuster and rent it. Frankly, I don't see what all the hype was about. The story was weak and cliche (remember "Some kind of Wonderful"?). Gene Cajayon attempted to portray every type of filipino found in the US today (Coconuts, gangsta's, FOBS, and car crazy-big muffler-basketball playing-hip hop dancing fanatics). Some of the portrayals were OK because most of the actors and extras were basically acting like acting experience needed. "Rufio" gave an uninspiring performance. I have the feeling the he didn't want to make this film in the first place...and it showed (I guess Lou Diamond Phillips was too expensive). He and his brothers were obviously the only ones with real acting training and experience and it showed among the others.

I wasn't sure if this was a comedy or a serious film. It was a complete overdose of everything Pinoy. Sure, seeing all the pinoy characteristics was amusing, but isn't it something most fil-ams see on a regular basis? And portraying caucasians as dumb and idiotic filipino-wannabes was abhorrent.

Overall, I am embarassed for this movie, and since I am a filipino-american (btw I classify myself as a "coconut") I know I am in the minority amongst my other fil-ams. If this movie didn't have Jon-Jon, Jingy boy, and Lolo, it would have gone straight to video. Look for it at your local Wal-Mart DVD discount bin soon.
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i wanted to like this film but.....
samrocksmyshire2 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
i really wanted to like this film, but i just couldn't. i mean, of course, i did like it for the 1 1/2 hour ride it took me on via the filipino stereotypes. But that's about it, folks.

this movie, in essence, is the experience of one man's life growing up as a second generation filipino. it's nice (and that's the best word i can find) to see his experience and we hope the best for him (Go Rufio!).

where this movie fails is in its marketing and advertising towards the larger audience. this film, in my opinion, plays "the race card," even if it doesn't mean to. for example, look at rjcarr's response to this film above, he says it's nice to see a bit of filipino culture. GREAT! But we have to remember that this is only one man's point of view, only one version of the filipino culture. therefore, this is a highly subjective film. where this film troubles me is that it is a very highly subjective point of view of many, many people marketed off, even if unintentionally, as the objective point of view. i mean, come on, just look at what others say, even Roger Ebert.

As a second generation filipino-American myself, i had high hopes and somewhat high expectations for this movie as perhaps Gene Cajayon could voice some of the similar struggles we have faced. Normally i wouldn't have high expectations for this sort of film because it is unfair. that being said, you could say that i am being unfair. But as i mentioned earlier, this film had the audacity to distinguish itself as "A FIlipino American Movie." therefore, the movie is representing me, my brother, and other filipino Americans. i don't think it's unfair to want to be represented properly if someone is going to claim themselves as the canon for filipino Americans. that is not unfair, it's racist.

perhaps the biggest culprit of outright racism is the character of the sister. She says, "wake up, ben. you know, you're just as brown as the rest of us." Um, judging by color? that's racist. Using brown as a metaphor for being filipino, fine. but why does he have to define himself as filipino? yes, yes, embrace who you are, and if that's being part of the filipino community, fantastic. but that's exactly what it is. it is only part of who Ben is. it seems as if the theme of the movie is that you have to cherish being filipino more than being an individual.

OK, i think that's enough of a response. just a few last thoughts though: let's remember that this film is only one example and not an example of all second generation filipino Americans. you can't use this movie as a piece of fact, because it simply isn't. lastly, to those filipinos who tell me: "come on! wake up! you are a filipino!" I'll have to say no. i am proud to be who i am, and being filipino is definitely part of that, but as you can see (read above), being filipino is only a part of me. in no way does it define me. i don't want someone else telling others who i am and that includes you, thanks.
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Basco Family Project
bkoganbing6 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The Debut is a small independently produced film with Filipino and Filipino-American players is a good look for us westerners into the culture and life of a people most of us know very little about. As to the story however, it's one of three generations of generational conflict that's universal.

The film's lead Dante Basco who is best known for playing Rufio in the Dustin Hoffman-Robin Williams film Hook is our protagonist here. Dante is a thoroughly Americanized kid who wants to be an artist and he's pretty good at it. His parents however want him in regular college for which he's earned a scholarship and not to some art school where he has to pay the full freight.

Parents Tirso Cruz and Gina Alajar think this is all nonsense. Cruz has worked as a letter carrier for the post office in order to provide for his family. He wants no foolishness from his son. They quarrel and Basco blows off his sister's 16th birthday party. For Filipino girls, 16 is a bit more than sweet 16 for us Anglos, it's in fact their Debut.

That night after some encounters with other kids who've reacted to their immigrant status and heritage in various ways and with his family at his sister's Debut, Basco learns quite a lot, including just how much his father sacrificed his dreams for his children. The generations, father, son, and visiting grandfather all come together.

The Debut was shot with a fairly cheap budget, the story doesn't exactly call for a DeMille type production. Dante Basco has an entire group of siblings who are actors, just like the Phoenix family and they all seem to have found work here. Best known of the siblings is Dion Basco who played Alberto in the TNBC series, City Guys.

Still it's Dante's film and he turns in a fine performance as a kid who does a lot of growing up over the course of an evening. The Debut is a nice film with a look at Filipino culture that we would rarely get to see in the west.
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Everything you ever wanted to know about Filipino-Americans and then some.
George Parker19 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
"The Debut" - another tiresome film about a younger generation of ethnic Americans breaking with the traditional values/practices/etc. of the older generation - takes us inside a Filipino-American family where every scene seems like an excuse to make some statement about the Filipino-American subculture. We get to see everything from a deb's party replete with traditional costumes, dances, music, etc. to a Filipino pride lecture about how Filipinos fought the Japanese along side Americans to lots of talking in Tagalog to expressions of ethnic prejudice to....etc. None of that would be a bad thing if the film were any good. However, this unfortunate tale about a high school senior (Basco) mapping out his own education against the expectations of his father is an ill focused, uneven journeyman production at best. Those interested in Filipino-American issues will find plenty of information right here on the internet while those interested in solid entertainment should find another movie. For Filipinos or fans only. (C+)
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Surpringly touching film
bijou-212 November 2005
Having grown up in a Cuban-American family I was surprised at how similar the cultures represented in THE DEBUT are to my own. Although I am aware of both countries' Spanish colonial influence, I think many Americans from ethnic backgrounds will find the same connection to this film.

I universal story that does not shy away from its roots, THE DEBUT is actually a great film. The actors may not be the most experienced but they certainly come across more honest than most of the "polished" teen stars today.

One of the many striking performances comes out of left field from the villain tough boy with the gun (I don't know his name). When he starts getting slapped around by mama his expression is priceless and the scene strikes a cord into memories of the "tough guys" of my youth.

A memorable independent film with a heart as big as Asia. With a little sharper editing this could have been MY BIG FAT PHILLIPINO DEBUT.

Set aside your preconceptions and enjoy.
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Could have been a lot more than it was
Seth_Rogue_One26 December 2014
I get it, it's the first movie starring primarily young American- Filipinos and that was a big deal to a lot of people because they and Asian groups in general have a very limited place (if any) in the entertainment business.

But that doesn't mean the movie is automatically good because it brings up a culture seldom seen in American movies.

A lot of times the movie becomes way to focused on showcasing the culture that it forgets about telling a good story.

Long scenes of people singing, folk dancing etc might be nice to see for some but just doesn't move the movie forward. And it doesn't help that Dante Basco's 2 white friends in the movie act like they just witnessed the birth of Christ after seeing the performances.

The 2 white friends serves no real purpose in the movie except for I guess portraying what the white public watching the movie is SUPPOSED to feel, but at least as with the case with me this was not the case.

When it does focus on the story though and the Basco brothers it's fairly good but yeah too often it slips into something that more resembles a promotion video for Philipino culture and various artists.

There's also a dance-battle which I usually enjoy but it's so overly choreographed it's ridiculous to think that they are suppose to make it up on spot.

Anyways, like I said if it wasn't for all that it would be a fairly good movie, now it's just okay with occasional moments of greatness but also occasional moments of annoyance.
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A Step in Recognition for Filipino Americans and other Second Generation Minorities
iherana27 November 2012
For someone who went to auditions where the casting directors never heard of Filipinos, Dante Basco surely was excited to represent his fellow Filipino-Americans in this film. The Debut was a cause for excitement in Fil-Am circles, especially among the youth who had entertainment for Filipinos and entertainment for Americans but never entertainment for their generation as Filipino Americans.

At times the movie is simplistic with its moral messages about growing up caught in between cultures, but often the director/writer subtly weaves in tales of internalized oppression, shadism, Filipino classism, and interracial relationships.

Despite occasional cheeziness, this movie may be one of the most important to watch for a Filipino American or any multi-cultural westener.

Besides its cultural value, the extra features reveal the very essence of independent film. The tenacity of the the crew and volunteers attests to the hard-working spirit of independent filmmakers and Filipinos.
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Good But Not Great Movie About Filipino-Americans
Desertman8413 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Debut is an independent film directed and co-written by first-time Filipino American filmmaker,Gene Cajayon. The film stars Dante Basco,who plays Ben Mercado, a talented high school senior who enrolls in a prestigious arts institute in order to realize his dreams of becoming an artist.

However,Ben Mercado's plans come into conflict with those of his strict immigrant father Roland (Tirso Cruz III), a postal worker intent on seeing him become a doctor. Their long-simmering feud—for Ben, a struggle to be accepted by America and therefore reject his Filipino heritage; and for Roland, a quest to give his children a better life than he had—threatens to boil over and ruin the elaborate eighteenth birthday party of Ben's sister Rose (Bernadette Balagtas). However, it is at the party where everything starts to change for Ben. The celebration emerges as a cultural stew of old world traditions and contemporary urban lifestyle, challenging Ben's sense of misplaced identity, his choice of friends, even the way he regards his father. He also finds an unexpected confidante (and perhaps a love interest) in Rose's best friend Annabelle (Joy Bisco).

However, the evening's challenges to Ben are just beginning to surface. The arrival of the Mercado family's overbearing patriarch (Eddie Garcia) exacerbates tensions between father and son, while the temptation to ditch the relatives to be with his friends at a kegger across town tugs at Ben throughout the evening. Worse, his budding romance with Annabelle is complicated by the presence of hot-headed Augusto (Darion Basco), a former boyhood friend-turned gangster wannabe—and Annabelle's ex. In one night, Ben will face the true nature of his relationships with his family, his friends, and himself.

After viewing this film about Filipino-Americans,I think that this movie has a lot to be desired of and there is certainly lots of room for improvement.

The plot about Filipino children clashing with Filipino-born parents in terms of culture could have been a great one but it turned out to be that the story is very predictable.Also,being a Filipino who resides in the States I felt that I am receiving an overdose of what the Filipino culture and traditions are all about when the story requires less of it.

Also,I felt that a lot of curses were being said by the Filipino parents which I felt does not represent an ordinary household whether in Manila or in other parts of the world.

Finally,I found the choking scene really funny but honestly I felt embarrassed considering that Filipino GRANDPARENTS do not resort to this behavior whenever upset or angry.But definitely,this is a good start for Filipino-Americans here in the States.They can definitely are capable of making good movies in the future.

The Debut is the first Filipino American film to be released theatrically nationwide and the first one to take place within the Filipino American community, one of the largest Asian ethnic minorities in the United States.But nevertheless,this movie is a good but not a great one.
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Pinoy Bonding
kathleen garcia11 December 2006
The film "The Debut" was a very touching movie for me. It made me change my idea on Fil-Am stereotypes. I know some kids raised in the United States but born in the Philippines with Filipino roots and they were already colonized by the Western culture once they stepped on the foreign land. They act very different, and worst they talk very much different from us. I like the way Tirso Cruz and Gina Alajar struggled to raise their kids in America but still in a Filipino manner. In the film, Ben seemed to be stubborn, always running away from his culture, shouting on his parents and his sister. But in the end he embraced every aspect of a true Filipino family. I also appreciate how proud are they to show our traditions-practiced in the 18th birthday of Rose in a form of lechon (roasted pig) with an apple on its mouth, eating their food using disposable plastic cups, plates, spoon and fork. They had a dance number which is a folk dance, and a song number sung in tagalong. I was expecting a hip-hop dance number or a rap song number but they maintained what the family used to do when they're in the Philippines. Filipinos are also fond of family portraits, and in the film it was shown in three generations. A picture of Eddie Garcia (Lolo Carlos), Tirso Cruz (Roland Mercado) and Dante Basco (Ben Mercado). It also gave me an idea on how Filipinos live their life in the United Status. There are some who are trying hard to speak English, trying to be slang, while there are families who tried to keep their household very Filipino by keeping Filipino souvenirs displayed on their racks and hang on their walls, and still they can speak and understand Tagalog fluently.
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decent & worth watching for a first effort
vanrosss12 May 2002
A young Filipino American man is the families touted trophy child as they believe him to be going to college for pre-med. His sister & some of his friends know that he wants to be a student of art. The sister is making her formal debut/birthday party where all the family and friends gather to celebrate. The conflicts with in the younger generation, with in the older generation raised in Filipino culture, and the conflicts of expectations of both generations erupt at the Debut.

Wry humor through out keeps a light mood even though there are some darker and more intense moments. Although this is the director's first work and there are some problems, the over all effect is good. The framework of Ben's life is developed enough for the audience to understand his motivations. The parents are well acted, and their development is mostly left to the pretense of the audiences own experiences in a successful manner. The appreciation of their parents culture is subtly developed by some characters while others are too self involved to see the world around them.

Many famous Filipino actors are featured in this work, and it marks the first time that all four Basco brothers have appeared together. The very diverse music put to use in this film was primarily from Filipino musicians, and it is well suited to the story. This film is playing in very few locations which are listed at the official site. It may or may not make it to video.
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First Filipino American film in America?
buko7arniel2 June 2000
The Mercardo Family Debut (aka the Debut) has been a spectacle within the Filipino American community from 1997 - 2000. The movie works really well. However some of the comedy might only be understood by Filipinos. The intraracial friendship between Dante Bosco's character and his two "white" friends is probably the strogest element of the movie. Also the intergenerational differences between, grandfather, father and son is a universal theme that everyone can understand. One given the chance, see this film. I hear distribution might be a bit difficult, however the producers vie to get this film released across America. Be on the lookout!
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A Must See!
webEd26 March 2002
Having recently seen the `The Debut' at its premiere in Chicago, I just have to say, `Kudos' to the cast and crew of the movie. As a fellow `pinoy', I truly appreciated the efforts made by the film's writers to capture the essence of our dual culture. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that it was an independent film - not having to compromise the script or its chosen actors. A film about Filipinos, acted, directed, and produced by Filipinos. And the fact that it took almost two years to get this film shown here, is a testament in itself to the principals of the movie for persevering since Hollywood decided not to support it.

The story line is your basic coming of age film. However what makes it different is the depth at which the subtleties of Filipino-American life is presented and portrayed for the first time. So for non-Filipinos, it's good `primer' about your prevalent, yet up to now, silent neighbors. For Filipino-Americans, this is a film you should support and be proud of. The film is in English with periodic subtitles. It is not your typical big budget Hollywood film, yet it doesn't play like a low budget indie either. With its spirited acting and a notable (Fil-Am) soundtrack, this movie is polished gem. `Pinoys', welcome to our `debut'!
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The Debut: A prelude to a future flood of more mature, deep, and thoughtful Filipino American films
VSegall24 February 2002
Don't go into "The Debut" with the thought that it will be a thought-provoking film on Filipino life in the United States. Rather, go with the mentality that it's somewhat like "Save the Last Dance" with an Asian twist, and you won't be disappointed.

With "Save the Last Dance" the writers used high schoolers to slightly touch on issues of racism and fitting in, while at the same time incorporating dance `contests.' You'll find a little bit of this in some parts of The Debut, but with more of a Filipino flare. Overall I liked the film and looked at it as a teeny-bopper/pop film that slightly skimmed aspects of Filipino culture. But hopefully "The Debut" is only a prelude to a future flood of more mature, deep, and thoughtful Filipino American films.

I watched the film with my mom and my aunt, who are Filipinas. But before we entered the theatre, Auntie Melly commented, `It's about time they made more movies about Filipinos here in America.'

Co-writers John Castro and Gene Cajayon, also the director, give a glimpse into one Filipino family's life in the United States. "The Debut" takes place within a 24-hour period, revolving around Ben Mercado, played by Dante Basco, who was also nominated for a best actor Ammy award for this performance.

A talented sketch artist, Ben is torn between his artistic aspirations and his father's expectations that he become a doctor. Ben also struggles with his `other' life with his white friends, from whom he hides his Filipino heritage.

"The Debut" touches on the struggles that some young Filipino Americans face, including racism, fitting in, and how they may (or may not) live up to the expectations of their parents who are trying to find the `American dream' and pass it along to their children. But I left the film not knowing whether or not Ben's father truly approved of Ben's personal dream of becoming an artist rather than a doctor. And if his father does approve at the end of the film, I wasn't completely convinced.

Maybe we're not supposed to find out the answer in those 94 minutes. But the writers could have given more of a history into the father-son relationships throughout this film since that seemed to be one of the major conflicts of the film.

However, the first half of the film was energizing, with thoughtful and humorous dialogue, especially among the older relatives and Ben's white friends who slowly learned about Filipino culture.

I was especially impressed with Tirso Cruz III's performance as Ben's father, Roland, who is a complicated character - a tough and authoritative father with a soft-heart for his family. Cruz, who normally plays alongside Filipina singer/actress Nora Aunor, gave a passionate performance in "The Debut" and didn't hold anything back with this character.

Roland's relationship with his own father, Lolo Carlos, is even more complicated. Veteran actor Eddie Garcia plays Lolo Carlos. Despite Garcia's numerous awards (including five FAMAs, which are similar to the Oscar awards) I found his performance in The Debut forced and uncomfortable, unlike Cruz' performance. But I appreciated the filmmaker's decision to include such famous Filipino actors as Cruz and Garcia.

Even with a good beginning, the last half of the film disappointed me because of the slow and predictable ending, quickly losing energy and humor. Castro and Cajayon should have sat back in their chairs and thought about how they could develop more dialogue between the father and son, especially at the end, since I'm left wondering what happened between the two. And I embrace Cruz' performance, so seeing more of him, especially at the end would have strengthened the ending of this film.
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Have you ever seen a Filipino-American movie before?
rondekana22 May 2000
I saw "The Debut" with a festival audience in Los Angeles that was mostly made up of Filipino-Americans. As a Caucasian, it was really touching to hear everyone laughing at the Tagalog jokes, and appreciative cooing and spontaneous applause happened when shots of Filipino comfort food were on the screen during a banquet scene! I was really moved, not only by the film's tender story of inter- and intra-cultural conflict, but by the realization that I'd never seen a film by or about Filipinos in America (or by or about any Filipino anywhere, come to think of it!). I hope this won't be the last! Special attention should also be paid to Conrad Cimarra, in the role of NESTOR. He brought welcome comic relief to the picture every time he appeared as the 'new arrival', fresh off the boat from Manila. Let Conrad's performance reinforce a lesson to all young actors: "There are no small parts. Only small actors." Conrad was HUGE in keeping the laughs coming and providing a much-needed balance to the film.
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Filipino-American Film Hits Home!!!
wuttsthis3 May 2001
As a Filipino-American, I am definitely proud to finally see an American film that celebrates the Filipino-American experience. As a film lover, I definitely congratulate Cajayon on a great job for his directorial "debut." The film hit a personal level, but overall I enjoyed the cinematography and the beautiful performances.

Themes of family, friends, and identity are not just for the Filipino audience. The soundtrack is superb as well. For an independent film, audiences and feedback have been phenomenal as Cajayon and his "Debut" team make grassroot promotions and city-to-city theater runs. This is a message to Hollywood that there are audiences and support for Filipino-American film!!!
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The timeless story of assimilation, confusion and self-searching that accompanies the children of immigrants.
bigdgun30 April 2001
The story of second generation Americans trying to find their niche while battling racism, tradition and parental and peer pressure has been told 1000 times. The story has been told by and about Japanese, Chinese, Puerto Rican, El Salvadoran, Irish, Russian, Italian, Jewish, Catholic, et al immigrants. But this is the first time that I have seen the story presented from a Filipino perspective. The Debut is a rather remarkable film in that it captures the essence of the whole dilemma. And it does so with first time writers, directors and actors.

All of the typical Filipino cliches from hard-assed Lolos(grandfathers); to parental scarifice; to the Tagalog/English accent that can be turned on and off; to the FOB (Fresh off the Boat) cousin; to the innate desire to belong; to the street gangs; to interracial and same-race relationships; to the acceptance of the White American into the Filipino home by the parents, but the reluctance and embarrassment of the child; to the giant salad servers on the wall. It's all here and it all works.

The two female leads, Rose Mercado (Bernadette Balagtas) and Annabelle (Joy Bisco), sparkle. They are both stunningly beautiful and competent actresses who manage to capture your hearts with their dazzling smiles. Ben Mercado (Dante Basco) has a real future in films and not just ethnic ones.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Debut and anyone who has had any exposure to the Filipino/American culture will find something to laugh at, to recognize and to cherish.
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not such a Pinoy Pride review
NolanSorrento23 April 2001
The Good: This is the first step in hopefully many of Filipino-American movies. It showed the culture in a positive light, with the highs and lows of being a Filipino teen growing up in the states and trying to mesh the two cultures together. We get to see the son who is choosing to break tradition of doing exactly what is expected of a son and instead trying to find his own independent path.

The pacing of this movie was also very solid if not a little predictable. The jokes where also a lot of fun, but mostly if you are Filipino, otherwise they may need a little bit of explanation.

The Bad: I did see things as being a bit glossed over in this movie. I don't think I know of any Filipino family where going against the grain gets accepted as easily as this movie did. Every character except Ben Mercado is a very one-dimensional character. There is the (generic) cute pinay, who's friendly and timid, the (generic) hood-rat pinoy and his two lackeys, and the (generic) FOB, who's accent is way over done, I thought he was from Manila, but he sounded like more like an un-educated peasant. I also thought the ball game between Ben and his sister was getting a little too friendly for a sibling game. This movie is also limiting itself to a very hardcore Filipino crowd, rather than maybe trying to aim it towards a broader audience trying to make others understand the `whys' of the Filipino culture. This movie also adapted a little heavily from your standard American Teenie-Bopper flicks, primarily `Somekind of Wonderful' where you have Eric Stoltz deciding to go to art school against his father's wishes.

The Ugly: I understand that this is a small step in showing the culture, but I think a lot of things got denied in this movie, how many younger Filipino parties have we all gone too and ONLY three thugs showed up, they also made it seem like every teen got along with one another and ignored the cliques that are so common during any party. Why did the Auntie with the white husband also have to have the screwed up kid? Why was Ben, the only one with white friends also the only one who chose to go a different path then what his parents wanted? He's also the only one, it seems like, who didn't get the nice ride from the family, instead we see him getting rides from his friends (and if you say he wasn't the only one, take another look at the parking lot scene and give me a ratio count of cars to teens). Why, when the racer bragged about his Integra, did he just get the speech about how everyone is trying to keep down the pinoy, rather than, something more along the lines of just saying he's spoiled and should maybe try and earn his own?

And the Close: Even though my review may not seem like it, I did enjoy the movie, I just have high demands on any movie showing any culture, I believe movies like this should address issues rather than breeze past them just because they are complicated situations. I don't believe a movie should get high praises just because it shows `Pinoy Pride' any movie including this movie, needs depth too. 6/10

question? comments? complaints?
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well worth the $8, a jewel of a film!
mzagala16 April 2001
Thank goodness for indie films! Are you are sick and tired of stupid formulaic, cookie-cutter hollywood movies? Then this is a film you want to watch. If you're Fil-Am or have friends who are, you'll going to enjoy this immensely. It captures so many little facets of the Fil-Am culture clash/identity crisis that so many of us go through. I've read & heard about the great amount of difficulty it took to make this film (my daughter attended a Union City, CA screening where the director was present) and I'm not at all surprised that Hollywood displayed no interest in producing or distributing a film about `minorities'-not enough white faces in the film to attract a mainstream audience, right?

Thank you, Gene Cajayon, for making this film, and I wish you the best in your career as a director. Robert Rodriguez and Spike Lee started out doing small films, so I really hope this catches the eye of the industry. Maybe a screening at the Sundance? Perhaps the best thing this film will do is kindle interest in young Fil-Ams about their heritage, culture and history.

Do did you know that:

  • before the Vietnam War, there was the Philippine `insurrection' that claimed 100,000 Filipino lives

  • the .45 was developed specifically to kill the Filipino `insurgent'

  • the slang term `boonies' or `boondocks' used to describe a place located way out in the countryside originates from the Tagalog word `bundok', meaning `mountain'

Filipinos are bit more interwoven in the American social fabric than we realize, and with this film, we're a little bit less invisible.
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This film rocks!
vincefesalbon3 November 2000
Gene Cajayon was a young Filipino-American college student when he came up with the idea for a Filipino-American film that would eventually become "The Debut." Raised in Orange County, California, and attending film school at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Gene wanted to produce a film that allowed Filipino-Americans, both young and old, to see themselves portrayed on the silver screen. Enlisting the help of film student John Manal Castro, the two began work on the screenplay.

The journey to bring The Debut to the screen took eight long years. Gene relied on the support of grants and donations from the National Asian American Telecommunications Association and others. His producer, Lisa Onodera (of "Picture Bride" fame), helped with fundraising and making the film look more expensive than what it actually cost to make.

When all the funding was in place, Gene began assembling his cast and crew. He recruited veteran actors from the Philippines (e.g. Tirso Cruz III and Eddie Garcia) to play the parts of the parents and grandparents in the film. Gene cast young local Filipino-American actors to play the Filipino teenagers. The role of "Ben Mercado", a high school senior who struggles with his Filipino identity and family, is played by Dante Basco.

The Debut centers around Ben, a creative Filipino-American, high school boy who decides that he wants to go to art school to study animation. This collides with Ben's father's expectation that Ben go to medical school to become a doctor. The father, Roland Mercado, himself a postal worker, cannot understand his son's preoccupation with the arts and disinterest in Filipino culture.

On the night of Ben's sister's "debut" (or her 18th birthday party celebration), Ben's eyes open up as he learns from the other Filipino teens about what it means to be Filipino-American. He learns to his surprise as well, that his father used to play in a band back in the Philippines. Lastly, Ben meets a young Filipino girl that catches his eye and things start to heat up.

The Debut may indeed be the first Filipino-American movie ever made. Unfortunately, the film has not been picked up by a film distributor as of yet, so the producers have been showcasing the film around the country. It was screened in late October of 2000 at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival where it played to a large, enthusiastic crowd. It will also be screened in Hawaii in November 2000. One way or the other, Gene Cajayon will make sure that The Debut get seen around the country, either through a Hollywood distributor or through self-distribution. This is an exceptional film that proudly tells what's it like to be Filipino-American, and hopefully will pave the way for Filipino stories to make their way to the big screen.
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Excellent movie! A+ (***** out of four)
th1nkboutu14 August 2000
This movie was presented at the San Diego Asian Film Festival on Friday, August 11th & Saturday, August 12th. It stars Dante Basco & Joy Bisco.

I loved this movie. It was hilarious at times, as well as sentimental about Filipino roots and about a young Filipino-American discovering his own heritage through experiences. The movie showcases a dazzling and wonderfully done of a traditional filipino dance, along with the delicious and great tasting native foods of the Philippine culture. For a summary: A young man named, Reuben (Ben), is caught between his father's wishes for him to become a doctor, and his own wishes to become an artist. He always hanged out with "white" people, that is until he discovers his own people. The main part of the movie takes place at the 18th birthday party of Ben's sister, Rose. Much work & effort was put into this film & I highly appreciate it. Thank you, and please if this film comes to your town, go out to see it. Thank you once again.
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an extraordinary 'ordinary' Filipino-American film
world_traveler9816 February 2002
'The Debut' is an independent film which does a great job in portraying dilemmas faces by young people in general and Filipino-Americans in particular. Some of the issues in the movie include finding one's identity (Ruben Mercado [Dante Basco] is a young Filipino-American who is torn between 'being brown' and being labeled 'a white boy'), rifts between generations (Ruben has problems relating to his father Roland [Tirso Cruz III] who in turn has an uneasy relationship with his father Carlos [Eddie Garcia]), meeting parent's expectations, and dilemmas most young people face such as finding a group to belong to, finding independence, and dealing with relationships.

First, let's get one thing straight. As mentioned before, 'The Debut' is an independent film, so audiences should not expect elements we come to expect when we see modern big-budget films. There are no fancy special effects,

over-the-top plots, or big name stars, though some Filipinos may recognize Eddie Garcia and Tirso Cruz III as established stars in the Philippines. What audiences will get is an movie that deals with the ordinary. The film was shot in the Long Beach - Montebello area with the main scene, the debutante ball, filmed at a local Catholic high school, Sacred Heart. The actors and actresses give personality to their characters because they are portraying ordinary people. Besides the aforementioned characters, audiences are introduced to Rosemary [Bernadette Balagtas], Ruben's big sister who is genuinely concerned for her younger brother and acts as a mediator between Ruben and their father, and Rosemary's best friend Annabelle [Joy Bisco], who is coming off a rocky relationship with her possessive ex-boyfriend.

However, what makes 'The Debut' such a great movie is that it takes these ordinary elements and does extraordinary things with them. While the some of the topics may seem cliche, the film overcomes this by focusing the audiences attention on the characters. The actors and actresses portray people with problems most people in the audience can relate to, and therefore we cheer them on as their personal victories become ours. When the film begins to get to serious at times, comedy is interjected through the antics of Ruben's cousins and other characters. Even ordinary events are given some symbolic meaning. In one scene, Ruben makes his way through a mosh pit as he attempts to escape an unfortunate incident at a party. This can be taken further to symbolize his realization of who he is and his escape from some of his inner demons.

While some of the scenes do seem forced and there is profanity seems to be in every other scene, this is a minor complaint. After all, this movie portrays everyday life. Overall, 'The Debut' does an extraordinary job of portraying the "ordinary" everyday problems facing Filipino-Americans and Americans as a whole. With an amazing job done by the entire cast to make believable characters we can relate to as well as a terrific job done by the directors and producers to create a movie that educates as well as entertains, it is easy to see why this film earned honors at several independent film festivals. Definitely a must-see, whether you are Filipino or not.
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Overall 8
phoenixprimus24 October 2001
Positives - My brother is in this movie. He's the Filipino guy with the white shirt and cream vest, listening intently to the conspiracy theory of Ben's cousin out with the tricked out cars. Side note: He also owns the Black CRX with the Red "Rush Factor" sticker on the windshield. The other nice things is that they did an excellent job of capturing the "you know you're Filipino when . . ." attributes. The film is quite funny and quite accurate.

Negative - While I let this slide because its the first fil-am movie, I'd like to see less ethno-centric films. Films where nationality isn't the focal point. I have the same complaint about most African-american films. Like say they made "The Fast And the Furious" but all the main characters are Filipino. The story itself could happen to anyone, it just so happened to happen to a Filipino. The other part is that it is too general, but again, since its the first, I suppose it was necessary.

Overall - an 8. For all its flaws, they were necessary for this film because one of the main objectives was to show what the filipino culture was, both the good, the bad and the typical. And my brother was in it. hah
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