BITTER MELON is the third feature film from filmmaker H.P. Mendoza (Colma: The Musical, Fruit Fly, I Am a Ghost). It is the story of a Filipino-American family who reunites for a Christmas party at the family home in San Francisco only to find out that Troy, the second oldest child, has been ruling the house with fear-intimidating everyone who lives there-including his mother, and even physically abusing his wife. What starts as a fun holiday reunion turns into a darkly humorous crime scene as Declan, the youngest son, leads the family as they conspire on how to best murder the violent and abusive Troy.
I love this film for a lot of reasons. Asians and API folks get boxed into stereotypes when it comes to specific genres. The roles are not necessarily diverse and taking risks with our imaginations as filmmakers aren't necessarily rewarded. I'm pleased with the fact that the filmmaker juxtaposes traumatic issues within a cultural framework that resonates with the audience as a whole. It's not easy to weave themes such as masculinity (including toxic masculinity), homophobia, misogyny, and domestic violence into storytelling that is entertaining, funny, dark, terrifying, and serious at the same time.
Timing is incredibly appreciated in this film. From the delivery and performance of the actors/actresses (you should know much was shot in single take) to the score, it's obvious the filmmaker is a genius- add his guerrilla-like filmmaking training from his DIY days. This kind of passion in filmmaking is far from the automated formats you see these days.
Be prepared for some monologues but from my perspective, it gives you the experience of live theater- something I'm sure we're all missing these days.
The references to SF Bay Area Filipinos, 90's API love, and Filipino food and culture is on spot. A film to be proud of no matter who you are.
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