Updated: Sept. 9, 2020, 7:35 AM

The gamble that paid-off

Opinion

Teodoro Acuitas

Editor, Philippine Canadian News.Com (PCN.Com)

“Movie and television shows are magic mirrors, and we watch for the reflections that resemble us. They show us  who we are. They gave us the silhouettes of identity so difficult to envision on our own,” Alex Tizon wrote in his book ‘Big Little Man – In Search of My Asian Self’.The late Pulitzer-prize journalist and author devoted a whole chapter in his book ( Tiny Men on the Big Screen) to dissecting why Asians do not appear in Hollywood movies except in mediocre supporting roles.

“I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight’ is a trail-blazer in the arid landscape of Canadian-made movies bereft of representation from people of colour.

For an expatriate like me who has been in Canada for well over 50 years and never seen or seldom seen my people represented in movies or television, this is a refreshing and hopeful beginning, albeit too long in coming. I maybe not around when it will not be surprising anymore if we see another Hera Nalam in another movie.

Riveting

Leading lady Hera Nalam’s debut performance is riveting as the feisty Iris Dela Cruz who puts her male protagonists in their places, in this Winnipeg-made and shot movie.

Her commanding presence is immediately apparent as the movie opens with her and Simon Friesen( Kristian Jordan) are having drinks after the innocuous meeting pushing a car out of a snowdrift.

Her unexpected proposal that this would be their first and only meeting caught Simon by surprise and one would think that was the end of their fleeting meeting.

But other events intervened and the two meet again triggering a relationship that lasted only for a short while when Simon decided to go away “to think about our relationship.”

Thus began a spiral of despondency for Iris who thought she was abandoned by her new-found love. She fleeted from boyfriend to boyfriend to drown her sorrows only to be shocked when Simon returns and professed his love for her.

The story of course does not all revolved around the romance but includes Iris’ family who was dealing with the impending marriage of her older sister Agnes ( Andrea Macasaet, who is set to appear in a Broadway show) to Justin ( Aaron Pridham). 

This is the scene where the use of ‘Taglish’ became useful as the protagonists flawlessly switched from English to Filipino without any sub-titles as the director had intended.

Her mother Reyna ( played by Mithus Mallari) resented the seeming indifference of Iris to get involved with the wedding plans and erupted into one of the most memorable performance of Halam.

For first-generation Filipinos, seeing a daughter talk back to her own mother the way Iris did was utter disbelief.

But for millennials though, she represented their own break from the shackles of the old way and coming to age in a new country.

Halam was convincing in her unflinching demeanour in not apologizing to her mother as her father ordered  her to do. This is the same fortitude she exhibited when she tangled with Simon and Justin who is a bit feely touchy with her.

The comic relief was provided by the two friends (Simon and Gord (Matthew Paris Irvine) blabbing while on their construction jobs and were caught by their foreman.

This movie could have been just another ‘Rom-Com’ (Romantic- Comedy’) but for the outstanding performance of Hera Halam and supporting actors.

Significantly, director and producer Sean Garrity took a leap of faith in casting 20 out of the 29 actors from the Filipino-Canadian community in Winnipeg. Most, if not all of them had no movie experience, albeit some had theatre experience like Halam and Macasaet.     

The almost-all Filipino cast is something never before done in Canadian history. Garrity’s faith in the success of his venture has been partly borne this early by the acceptance of the movie, prompting cinemas to extend their screenings.

Despite the initial setback to its launch because of the pandemic, Garrity took another chance at showing it with the social distancing requirements, limiting the numbers for each showing. Yet, its Winnipeg run were sold-out and the movie garnered No. 5 in the box office. The initial success of ‘I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight’ shows a hunger for movies with Filipino casts by the diaspora – a sector that has always been a mainstay for Philippine-produced TV series like ABS-CBN.

ABS-CBN, the Philippines largest television and news conglomerate has recently been closed by the country’s strong-man ruler Rodrigo Duterte.

Its closure took away the diaspora’s main entertainment source with its wildly popular ‘telye-series’ – mini series television episodes.The vacuum left by the closure of ABS-CBN opens up for ventures like “I Propose We Never Each Other Again After Tonight’.

The movie opens in Calgary and Edmonton on September 11 and is extended in Vancouver until September 10.

It will be available on Video-on-Demand (VOD) in November and television in December or January 2021.

Related reading:

Top five: ‘I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight’ extended to Sept.10