Death Of Nintendo

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Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Death Of Nintendo
"The adventure of teenage life is represented in all its glory."

It's hard to believe the director of this coming-of-age charmer is the same Raya Martin who created the experimental assault on the senses that was Buenas Noches, España back in 2011 but - as this film relates - people change as they grow older. Also, considerable credit should go to screenwriter Valerie Castillo Martinez, whose first feature shows a sharp eye for character even if the story is a bit sketchy in places.

Change can't come soon enough for Paolo (Noel Comia Jr) and his mates Kachi (John Vincent Servilla), Gilligan (Jigger Sementilla) and Gilligan's tomboy sister Mimaw (Kim Chloe Oquendo) - all teenagers at that sweet spot where being engrossed in saving a princess in The Legend of Zelda is beginning to give way to taking an interest in girls (and boys).

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While Gilligan thinks the lads' prayers to be taller and better hung - not to mention better able to stand up to the local American bully (Cayden Williams)  - will be answered if they are circumcised by a witch doctor, Paolo is more concerned with how to make the most popular girl in the neighbourhood, Shiara (Elijah Alejo) notice him. Shame then that his mum (Agot Isidro) fusses over him so much - a sharp contrast to Kachi, who more or less leaves him to his own devises and Gilligan and Mimaw's mum, who is struggling to come to terms with her marriage break-up.

These details are threaded through the story, although the focus is firmly on the kids. As Mimaw, embarks on a tentative friendship with Shiara - whose love of beads and what might be considered "girly" pursuits is in marked contrast with the rough and tumble of her brother and his friends - she finds herself helping to hatch an elaborate scheme that will see them all go on a ghost hunt together.

Stylistically, Martin still needs to settle on his ideas. There's some clever use of Nintendo type noises in the sound design during key moments early on but this sadly isn't sustained and nor is the use of breezy pop music that helps keeps things moving initially but is then largely jettisoned. A volcano metaphor (the action is set in the run-up to the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo is also amusing but underused.

The plot drivers are largely a MacGuffin to watch the kids interact and begin to learn something more fundamental about the importance of being true to themselves. The gender stereotypying is laid on rather thickly, but the children are natural and believable in the roles - although its a shame that the character of Mimaw, who gets top billing, isn't allowed to feature more prominently until quite late in the film. But the adventure of teenage life is represented in all its glory, from wanking competitions - "They call me Mr Flash," one boy declares proudly - to the importance of buying an ice-cream for someone you like to the way that superstition and reality blur easily in the imaginations of youngsters.

The film is also winning in its smaller details - perfectly recalling the way kids cram their mouths with psychedelic-coloured junk food or banter about basketball. Even when it's rough around the edges, these are characters that we want to spend time with and, in fact, they would make a great gang to build a television series around.

The adolescent themes and brightly coloured, high-energy approach should give this appeal to older teenagers - and it screened in the Generation section of the Berlinale - although the Nineties setting, which is increasingly common as the current generation of filmmakers recall their own youth, is likely to prove the greatest draw to those who remember living through it.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2020
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Hunting ghosts to impress girls. Undergoing circumcision in order to finally become a man. A pop homage to puberty and adolescence.

Director: Raya Martin

Writer: Valerie Castillo Martinez

Starring: Noel Comia Jr., Kim Chloie Oquendo, John Vincent Servilla, Jiggerfelip Sementilla, Elijah Alejo

Year: 2020

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Philippines, US

Festivals:

BIFF 2020

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