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The Debut
The Debut
Actors: Dante Basco, Eddie Garcia, Jayson Schaal, Brian Card, Mindy Spence
Director: Gene Cajayon
Genres: Comedy, Drama
R     2003     1hr 28min

An award-winning English language film for the whole family, "the Debut" revolves around Ben Mercado (Dante Basco), a talented high school senior who has rejected his Filipino heritage. The long-simmering feud between Ben ...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Dante Basco, Eddie Garcia, Jayson Schaal, Brian Card, Mindy Spence
Director: Gene Cajayon
Creators: Gene Cajayon, Dexter N. Adriano, Greg Spence, John Manal Castro, Lisa Onodera
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Drama
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/09/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2000
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Tagalog, Chinese

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Movie Reviews

Stumbling to a new understanding
Miguel B. Llora | Bay Point, California USA | 12/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A wicked first feature for director Gene Cajayon, The Debut is sincere albeit predictable. However, having said that, it is predictable only because the theme of the movie is so universal one cannot help but approach it this way. That even the language seems borrowed from similar films is a mark of universality of the cross-cultural experience it deals with. The casting, I think, works really well in the film. Everyone seems to be in sync and keyed subtext of the storyline. Trust me, despite the almost stilted dialogue the film does not betray or is not tacky about exploring subtleties. Don't be fooled, The Debut may seem simple on the surface, is extremely complex underneath its at times cheesy exterior. You will not be disappointed; The Debut is a illuminating as it is fun. It is simple, The Debut is a coming-of-age movie - such movies are universal. OK so it is amateurish in its acting but I think that is one of the reasons it is so appealing - it does not try to be anything it is not. The Debut has drama, music, dance, romance and humor - something for everybody. I guess my only bone to pick is that ends with a pat resolution but once again it is not trying to be Boyz in the Hood or West Side Story. Building a cast around friends and family and then infusing the film with a ton of old school looks a bit like trying to build a Los Angeles Lakers team with Shaq and Kobi at the middle and surrounding them with Malone and Payton - the thing is, like the current Lakers, it works. The Debut works on many levels but it hits home because of its enthusiasm. The Debut is definitely a likeable film but I am certain it will fall off the radar of hard core film buffs. Think of it as a sincere attempt at dealing with coming of age in the Filipino community. We need more of these types of movies to augment our current Hollywood offerings as it gives us a glimpse into cultures. So yes, it is familiar in its theme but it does give us a glimpse into the Filipino American community. Perhaps other communities can take stock and give us glimpse into theirs as well.Miguel Llora"
A Must See!
Edwin Tumlos | Chicago, IL USA | 03/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Kudos to a terrific first film for Gene Cajayong, to the writers who captured the essence of Filipino-American life, and to the excellent cast who brought out the sub-textual subtleties of the story line. Although I had to wait nearly two years to finally view "the Debut" (thanks to Hollywood's lack of support), it was certainly well worth the wait. Rarely is a film created, acted, and about Filipino-Americans. So for those uninitiated to the culture and its people, this is a great "primer". For the Filipino-American community, this is a film we should support, and definitely worthy of our pride. This is the first (as far as I know) commercial Fil-Am film released in Chicago, I hope it's not the last!The plot is nothing new, but the message and its delivery are pure "pinoy". The mix of fresh and seasoned talent keeps the energy going throughout the entire film. But what stood out to me the most are the scenes showcasing Filipino food, music, dance, and (I'm almost ashamed to admit) the fresh-off-the-boat (fob) humor. So to the general public, "This film is in English, has mass market appeal (i.e. very entertaining), and it doesn't hurt that it broadens one's horizon." To my fellow Filipino-Americans, "Welcome to our "debut"!" Go out to see it now because if we don't watch it in the theaters, it may never reach your local video store!"
More of a hodgepodge than a cohesive film
Dennis! | Washington, DC USA | 01/09/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Okay, by now you pretty much know the primary plot: Ben, Filipino-American adolescent, is having problems with his all-too-strict father, who wants his son to become a doctor despite Ben's clear artistic genius. This serves as a starting point for the movie, and it's meant to be driven forward by a debutante ball thrown by the family for Ben's little sister.

In the meantime, however, the movie decides to take, oh, about a gazillion detours into random stereotypes. And yes, they're ALL thrown in there: The gangster gun-toting "bad-ass." The guy who's willing to spend all kinds of mad cash on souping up his car. The Filipino-American Black Panther spouting off on The Man's attempts to keep his brown brothers down. The kid who's been in the States for two years and still pronounces his "f"s like "p"s. Oh yes, they're AAAALL in there.

Eventually during the course of the film we learn that Ben's dad was quite a talented singer in his youth, but he eventually gave up that "hobby" in favor of providing for his wife and kids. Turns out Dad's insistence that Ben abandon his artistic talent mirrors his own type of sacrifice. And when we see Dad's father (Ben's grandfather) drills Dad a new one for all kinds of things that were beyond Dad's control, you would think Dad would realize what kind of vicious cycle he's perpetuating upon his son. Let's face it, Filipino men are NOT portrayed as great people in this movie.

Another little detour the movie takes along the way is Ben's "identity crisis." This subplot is difficult to follow, mostly because Ben doesn't really manifest an innate hatred of the color of his skin. We're led to believe he has a problem because people accuse him of having a problem, but we don't really get to see it for ourselves. Meanwhile, Ben is accused of selling out his Filipino heritage because he seems to have only white friends and he has little interest in his sister's party. This makes him a "coconut"? The rather frightening implication of this accusation is that Filipino-Americans in this country should only be mixing with their own kind, and if you have non Filipino friends, you're selling out. And what teenager, of any race, isn't at some point embarrassed by his family?

And one quick note about Ben's two non-Filipino friends: While I found them to be cool people, I found them strangely, and somewhat unbelievably, open-minded. How many non-minority teenagers do you know who would delay plans to go to a cool friend's party in order to sit around and watch an "ethnic" dance, or to hear a song sung in a language they don't even understand?

The movie obviously resolves itself by the end in the way all movies of this genre will. Despite my review, the movie is still a fun show. And all the young Filipinos and Filipinas are pretty easy on the eyes, too."
Great movie!
Dennis! | 10/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am African-American, but have many Filipino friends. Iwas very impressed by this movie. It had a little bit of everything for everyone. The movie was done with great class and good detail. Best of luck to all of the production crew and cast members for future projects. It would be nice to see sequel to this film. Maybe call it, "Debuted - All Grown Up! I would also like to see a PG or PG-13 movie by the same creators."