33 user 19 critic

The Debut (2000)

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The story revolves around Ben Mercado, a talented high school senior who has rejected his Filipino heritage. The long-simmering feud between Ben and his immigrant father Roland threatens to... See full summary »


Gene Cajayon
4 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Dante Basco ... Ben Mercado (as Danté Basco)
Jayson Schaal Jayson Schaal ... Doug
Brian Card Brian Card ... Dave
Mindy Spence Mindy Spence ... Jennifer
Nicole Hawkyard ... Susie
Brandon Martinez Brandon Martinez ... Rick
Ernie Zarate Ernie Zarate ... Tito Lenny
Gina Alajar ... Gina Mercado
Emelita Moll Emelita Moll ... Tita Connie
Gina Honda Gina Honda ... Tita Florie
Tirso Cruz III ... Roland Mercado
Bernadette Balagtas ... Rose Mercado
Rawlins Apilado Rawlins Apilado ... Jun
Derek Basco ... Edwin Mercado
Joy Bisco ... Annabelle Manalo


The story revolves around Ben Mercado, a talented high school senior who has rejected his Filipino heritage. The long-simmering feud between Ben and his immigrant father Roland threatens to boil over and ruin the 18th birthday party of Ben's sister Rose. But to Ben's surprise, his sister's celebration challenges his sense of misplaced identity, and the way he regards his father and grandfather. In one night, Ben faces the true nature of his relationships with his family, his friends, and himself. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One night can change a lifetime.


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Gene Cajayon




English | Tagalog | Filipino

Release Date:

13 August 2003 (Philippines) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mercado Family Debut See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,784, 15 March 2002, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,743,570, 10 November 2002
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Ultra Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was never picked up by a major distribution company. Instead, the producers organized a grass roots effort to self-distribute the film. Three years passed between initial principal photography to opening, and another three to have the film travel and screened across the United States. A total of six years before the film made it to DVD and home video. See more »


Referenced in The Holiday (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

A fresh take on the immigrant experience in the movies
17 November 2002 | by noraleeSee all my reviews

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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