A large family with lots of issues gather together to mourn the death of the family patriarch. But getting in the way of their genuine grief are a bunch of superstitions about the dead, and...
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A large family with lots of issues gather together to mourn the death of the family patriarch. But getting in the way of their genuine grief are a bunch of superstitions about the dead, and the family's inability to deal with their issues in a civilized way.Written by
The movie is about how a family of five adult siblings coped with the death and the wake of their father, as simple as that. But within that bare context, Mr. Topacio was able inject very familiar Filipino situations that make us laugh out loud, and tug some heartstrings in the process. A central theme element is the depiction of various irrational superstitions that surround death, the wake and the funeral. It also tackles uniquely Filipino practices during the wake, including the gambling operations (saklaan). The inter-family conflicts among the siblings are also very well-limned and very realistic. As it is sharp, the words of the script were really very witty.
It is very obvious that the movie also succeeds because of the excellent cast. Mr. Topacio himself acknowledged that the secret of this movie's success is that he was able to get the actors he wanted. The siblings were played by veteran actors Dick Israel, Elizabeth Oropesa, Gina Alajar, Roderick Paulate, and Manilyn Reynes. Paulate, as expected with his flamboyant role as the gay son Junie, steals all his scenes, even when he does not have dialog. They play their comically-overmelodramatic roles with gusto and fun. Their interactions are quite carefree and natural, in both funny and dramatic situations.
I am glad I watched this movie. I think it would be a good movie for competition abroad because of its perfect rendering of the Filipino ways, very masang Pinoy indeed. I really wanted to see how the humorous Filipino dialog would come out in English, how much nuance could be lost. I am also concerned that a narrow-minded foreign audience might treat the whole movie as an inside joke that they do not get. I was hoping they would show the subtitled version today, but they didn't.
Last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to a movie about death customs as well, "Departures" from Japan. But certainly, as the quietness of that movie made it uniquely Japanese, the noise and festivity of "Ded Na Si Lolo" makes it uniquely Pinoy. I believe it deserves its shot at the big prize.
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