Monday, November 5, 2007

The Debut

Trailer for the movie “The Debut” (2000 release)
YouTube video from:

Summary of the movie, credit :
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.

Brief synopsis of the movie, credit
A high school senior and aspiring artist/illustrator, Ben's dream is to go to art school. This conflicts with the ambitions of his stern father Roland (Tirso Cruz III), a postman who wants Ben to achieve a higher status, preferably by studying medicine at UCLA. When his father dismisses Ben's art as "silly little pictures," he doesn't just shut out his family, but also, by extension, his Filipino heritage. When his Chicano and white friends Doug (Jayson Schaal) and Rick (Brandon Martin) unexpectedly come into his house during preparations for Rose's party, an embarrassed Ben hurriedly shoos them out before they see too much of his "ethnic" environment, whether the smells from the kitchen or the cultural curios that adorn the home.
The bulk of The Debut takes place later that evening at the party, held at a local high school gym. Here Ben, suffused in Filipino-ness, begins to find the beauty in his community (not to mention one particular young woman). This contrasts with a side trip he, Doug, and Rick take to an all-white party where an obnoxiously drunk white woman shocks Ben into recognizing that, just because he yearns to be white, it doesn't mean he is. As Rose admonishes him earlier, "You're just as brown as the rest of us."
But while ethnicity is incidental in BLT's storyline, The Debut explicitly engages it. There's a long tradition of Asian American films -- most famously Wayne Wang's trifecta, Dim Sum (1985), Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989), and Joy Luck Club (1993) -- that simultaneously explore identity alongside the generation gap between immigrant parents and their American-born and -raised children. One of the key tensions in The Debut is how the second generation of Filipino youth forms an identity amongst white, Black, and Filipino cultural influences. (That Flip Side deals with the same issues suggests their pervasiveness for Fil-Am filmmakers.)
The Debut appears to run through a checklist of Fil-Am cultural references designed as intra-community jokes as well as educate the cultural outsider. Whether it's predictable scenes of young teens playing basketball, colorful ethnic costumes or lingering shots of food platters, the film tries to showcase Filipino/Fil-Am culture, but with more style than substance.
More important, The Debut explores less obvious concerns within the community. For example, Roland, like many highly educated but underemployed immigrant men, works in a blue-collar profession that is an embarrassment to the Mercado patriarch from the Philippines, Lolo Carlos (played by legendary Philippines' star Eddie Garcia). Likewise, Ben meets his romantic interest Annabelle (Joy Bisco) when she's being aggressively hassled by her ex-boyfriend Gusto (Darion Basco, one of the five Basco family members in the film), a nod to the issue of domestic violence in the Fil-Am community (an issue more prominently taken up by Filipino-Canadian filmmaker Romeo Candido in 2002's Lolo's Child).

Note: I included a summary and synopsis of the movie because I have not seen the movie yet myself, though after reading about the movie, it does look like an interesting movie to watch.

This video is a trailer of the movie called The Debut. The Debut takes place in modern society from the viewpoint of a Filipino male, who is a senior in high school. This movie deals with the ethnicity of Filipinos and how a Filipino American in modern day may have conflicting views about who they really are, and what path they should follow. The paths would be trying to fit into the American culture and leave behind his or her original heritage, or learn to accept both cultures as one. I chose this video because I believe it represents the Filipino culture and how different it is compared to the American society. Also it gives a good example of how even though the Filipino immigrants may not have a very high standard of living for themselves; their true purpose is to make sure that their child succeeds well in the United States. The Filipinos beliefs of success are just like the other Asian Americans that came over to the Americas. Their goals are to make sure their child has a good education, and will be successful within the American society, no matter if they themselves have to suffer through a blue-collar type occupation in order to obtain their goal.

This video relates to the class material because it demonstrates the conflicts of different cultures within the United States. Though because this film is more recent, the Filipino’s are not really socially rejected by their surroundings, and treated unequally. Rather, the movie revolves around how the next generation of Filipino Americans fit into American’s society. Through a few of our readings, we learned about how Asian’s came over to America in search for a new life. At first they were deceived by being used as cheap plantation labor. But after protesting and slowly proving themselves worthy and capable of earning better wages and living on their own, without having to be detained in concentration camp-like settings, equality was slowly, but not fully, gained. In the brief synopsis of this video, it states that the main character’s immigrant father, Roland, is “a postman who wants Ben to achieve a higher status, preferably by studying medicine at UCLA”. Many of the first wave of Asian immigrants during this time period set out to make a successful life of their own, but more importantly to them, they worked hard to ensure their children receive the best education in order to get a more successful business career than they could ever have.

From what I have gathered from the trailer, summary, and synopsis of the movie The Debut, shows a very accurate representation of how being the child of an immigrant parent would be like. Also, I believe the Philippine culture would be accurately represented within the American society. The immigrant parent caring only for their child’s greater success struck me as being very true based on personal experience and through the readings in class. I could probably relate to this because I am also a daughter of an immigrant parent, with my mother being the immigrant who moved here a year or so before I was born. Though, being only half Filipino, I grew up experience both a mixture of a Philippine culture and of an American culture, therefore the lines between the two differences are quite blurred in my point of view. Though there are various cultural differences that are quite apparent to what half it belongs to.

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