Thursday, 23 June 2011


Pinoy Sunday [Review]

Opinion: B+

Simple yet referentially intriguing, Director Ho Wi Ding's linear portrayal of two foreigners' Sunday in Taipei city brings about a complex revelation to an undermined side of our lives as well as lots of fun and laughter. Very likely to be mistaken as a sophisticated arthouse film, Pinoy Sunday is pleasantly easy to digest that makes a great 80 minutes matinee for anybody to enjoy.

Inspired by Roman Polanski's short film TWO MEN IN A WARDROBE, PINOY SUNDAY tells the story of Manuel and Dado, two Filipino migrant workers who discover a discarded sofa. This transforms their normal Sunday into a tale of adventure, perseverance and self-discovery.

On their only day off, Filipino migrant workers, MANUEL and DADO discover a couch left behind on a Taipei sidewalk. In a life where everything is arranged and all possessions belong to the factory, the couch represents a chance to own something of their own. Aware that carrying a heavy piece of furniture across town is both ridiculous and illogical, the journey becomes an important metaphor for their attempt to make an unpleasant factory dorm that feels much more like a home. The arduous walk across the landscape is also an internal struggle —a journey that challenges notions of manhood, friendships and family.

Malaysia-born Director Ho Wi Ding was awarded Best New Director at the 47th Golden Horse Awards for Pinoy Sunday. This says a lot about this seemingly simple and plain fare of cinema, but embrace this with a ticket purchase and you will find yourself reaping a lot more from this one of a kind road trip tale of two foreign workers in a foreign urban city.

Despite having a simple plot of the lives of two Filipino labour in Taipei, there isn't a lot of cultural exchange going on here in this film that most of us will come to expect of. It is surprising (but to my delight) that Ho chooses to steer clear of exploiting social and cultural shock encounters that often arise from such film material and instead focus on something much pristine and closer to our hearts.

This film could depict any nationality in any urban Asian cityscape, and it'll still be similar.

I can very well see how this film can be highly referential to a bustling urban city like Singapore, which sees a significant portion of her population taken up by foreigners. Due to globalisation and a strong urge for industrialisation and economic boost throughout Asia, we see a trend of movements across the regions as everybody begins to seek better job opportunities in foreign lands. 

This is exactly the reason why I feel that this film can be easily embraced by many.

Almost dialogued entirely in Tagalog, this film places Taipei as a backdrop to the feature Filipino protagonists Dado and Manuel who are in charge of sharing their journey with us. It's a simple premise, they find an abandoned red sofa by chance and try to transport it back to their dormitory before the daily curfew hour at night.

Casting for this film is superb as the chemistry between Dado (Bayani Agbayani) and Manuel (Epy Quizon) works wonderfully and manages to put forth their contrasting personalities in great detail and understanding. Their characters were so well-written, but then again the two Filipino comedians could be contributing a lot with improvisation to that.

Struggling to make ends meet day in day out, Dado and Manuel are people who are contended with 7-11 sushi and burgers as treats and an ice-cold beer in hand every evening after work at the rooftop star-gazing. This is known as "finding pleasure in simple affairs in life".

As simplistic as the film's proposal seems, I find myself stunningly in revelation nevertheless.

Living in an urbanscape myself, I have to admit that certain pleasures in life are very often stereotypically associated with luxuries only affordable by money in large quantities - luxury sedans, grandeur estates/apartments, expensive dinners at posh restaurants, etc. Perhaps it's why Ho has the Taiwanese natives depicted in this film as often annoyed and unhappy.

We see picky adamant decisions on home furnitures, reckless suicidal attempts, daily rants and arguments between a couple over financial conditions and neglecting their elderly mother to the care of their household maid - Anna (Meryll Soriano).

Even the maid is decent enough to bring the grandmother out when she meets her boyfriend.

Often, we are blinded to what really brings pleasure and what values we should really embrace by materialistic desires and senseless pursuits. This is what I see in the act of Dado and Manuel carrying the heavy red sofa throughout the city - in order to fulfill the dream (in this case, it's tiny when compared to the larger materialistic dreams of the urban dwellers) of indulging in the comfort of a sofa every evening after work, they risk everything (and even themselves) just to bring it back to the dormitory.

Perhaps you can see yourself being the one carrying the red soda across the city. Do you always try to scrimp and save and sacrifice parts of your lifestyle and yourself just to afford the monthly installments of that luxury condominium or car? The sofa (materialistic desires) is heavy and a burden to carry, and at river crossings you'd rather immerse yourself and get wet to ensure the sofa stays dry.

I don't see the pleasure in that.

At the end of the film, you might find yourself hoping that Dado and Manuel ends up transporting the sofa back to the dormitory to enjoy that tiny piece of heaven they have in mind. If so, the film has successfully achieved its purpose. We feel that they should be entitled to a dream as simple as reclining into a comfortable sofa with an ice-cold beer in hand every night. That's because we are already enjoying that in our living room as we speak.

But yet, we are still unhappy with life and currently in pursuit of a higher life.

While Dado and Manuel attains revelation as they struggle to bring home a red sofa, maybe we should also reflect upon ourselves in self-discovery.


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