Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead)

Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead), dir. Victor Villanueva, 2016 Philippines, 90 min., in Tagalog with English subtitles 👌
Monday, June 19, 9:15 p.m., Roxie Theatre: North American première
Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead): Iyay, Jay, Jude

First of all, as you might guess from the Tagalog spelling, the name “Jesus” is pronounced as in Spanish; that is to say, in English phonetics, “hay-SOOSS.” Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead) is a road-trip movie, with mother Iyay taking her three sons to the funeral for their father, her estranged husband Hesus. Jay has finished college but is waiting for his exam results before looking for work. Jude is a transman who has paired up with Maria and become surrogate father to Maria’s daughter Mia. Bert (not pictured), the youngest, is an avid dancer and has Down Syndrome. The four of them, plus Mia and the family dog Hudas (Judas), pile into Iyay’s old multicab (minivan) for the trek to Dumaguete. Along the way, they pick up Sister Lucy (a nun, but also Hesus’s sister) and have various adventures (and mostly misadventures).

The screener that I saw was a “work in progress” print, so hopefully the final version was a little more polished, but the shoestring budget shows at numerous points in the film. Also, the soap-operatic quality of the story line doesn’t always translate well for an American audience. If you’re looking for Hollywood or anything close to it, this is not your movie. However, taken within the context of Filipino culture, and making allowances for the tiny budget, the underlying strength of the family bond of the four main characters carries the film most of the way to success. Recommended.

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