Fil-Am’s edgy short film wades into immigration, sex, race, white privilege
NEW YORK — A great year 2017 turned out to be for Michael Manese’s Tagalog/English short film, “The Pleasure of Being Served.” It has been selected by nine film festivals (so far) and has screened in many places, from New York City to Cardiff, Wales, Seattle, Washington and Manila. The next screening is in April 2018 at the Directors Guild of America in New York City.
The short film introduces the character of Rosa, an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines who works for Hudson, a brash American New Yorker secretly juggling two women – a conservative Filipina professional and a more gregarious yet harmless uptown blonde. In the process of getting to know these two women and her sleazy employer, Rosa gets caught between moral integrity and fulfilling her dream of providing her son with a much better life.
The short film (15 minutes, in Tagalog and English, for mature audiences) has a deceptively simple story filled with symbolism and archetypes and touches upon topics such as sex, race, white privilege, misogyny, work ethic, morality, the immigrant experience and friendship. It’s multilingual–in English and Tagalog, with subtitle. It is also morally Ambiguous: In the end, the audience will be asked “What would you do?” in the main characters’ situation. It is also edgy, (PG rated) with nudity, profanity and plenty of skin. The short film has been voted “Most Controversial”by iChill Film Festival in Manila
Italian chic to Filipino chic
Movies like “The Godfather,” “Serpico” and “Saturday Night Fever” in the ‘70s saw the rise of “Italian chic.” Stars like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and John Travolta made movies that drew upon their backgrounds as Italian Americans. They broke ground in Hollywood with their exotic looks and names. Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola are great examples of filmmakers who personified that trend that has continued ever since.
It’s time for Hollywood to have “Filipino Chic.” Manese’s goal for “Pleasure” is to help start that trend. One could make a big budget feature length movie starring an all Filipino cast with a unique Filipino story. Or with Maneses’s approach, start with baby steps: Start with a short film, cast a Filipina actress for the lead, write a Filipina lead character, also cast American actors for American roles and film a story about the Filipino experience set in America. It’s a production straddling the familiarity of an American setting while telling the story of Filipinos. It’s an American movie about Filipinos.
Manese will continue writing “Pleasure” as a feature-length film and plans to raise funds and produce it. In the meantime, he continues to write ideas for shorts that would also have strong Filipino characters set in familiar American settings.
Filipinos, especially those living in America, whether they’re first or later generations have a lot to tell. Having been born in Manila and raised in New Jersey, Michael Manese is a living example. As a filmmaker he will fuse the two cultures together. “The Pleasure of Being Served” is only the beginning.
WATCH: Michael Manese’s “The Pleasure of Being Served” trailer
Complete film festival screenings:
1) Diwa – Seattle, Washington – June 3
2) iChill (voted most controversial) – Manila, Philippines – June 22
3) 40th Asian American International Film Festival, NYC – July 2017
4) Sinehan sa Summer @ the Philippine Consulate, NYC – August 2017
5) Golden Door International Film Festival, Jersey City, NJ – October 7
6) International Film Festival Manhattan – October 22 2017
7) Cardiff International Film Festival, Cardiff, Wales, UK – October 2017
8) Cinematografo, San Francisco – November 2017
9) New York City International Film Festival – April 2018