SXSW 2021: Love And Identity Through A Cultural Lens: ‘The Fabulous Filipino Brothers’ Reviewed

by Gary Catig

Dante Basco has established an endearing spot in pop culture through the roles he’s assumed on screen including Rufio from the Peter Pan continuation, Hook, and voicing Prince Zuko in the animated Avatar: The Last Airbender. Like many actors, Basco dabbles in other facets of movie making. At this year’s SXSW, he made his feature film directorial debut with The Fabulous Filipino Brothers.

While another SXSW feature focused on the Filipino immigrant experience, The Fabulous Filipino Brothers is about the first generation born in a different country. The story follows four brothers from the northern California city of Pittsburg preparing for a wedding. We then flashback to four separate vignettes that focus on each sibling as they wrestle with their personal issues of romance, familial responsibilities, and heritage.

Dante and his brother Darion, who co-wrote the script, have a clear idea of who their primary audience is. They make it a family affair bringing in their other siblings into the cast. There are many references to the culture that Filipinos will find very relatable and the combination of the melodramatic, corniness, and silliness cater to their tastes.

Through the film, Dante’s potential as a filmmaker is present. The different vignettes provide an opportunity to display his versatility. He proves he can do outlandish slice of life, traditional romance and over the top comedy. With regards to the comedy, Dion Basco especially excels as youngest brother, Dave, and his unusual courtship methods with food. As writers, Dante and Darion mix things up with clever, and sometimes dark, twists.

Though the movie is a solid first feature film effort for Dante, it does suffer from inconsistencies. For example, some of the vignettes are more successful than the others. At times, the cultural references are too abstract and feel forced into the narrative. I’m unsure how non-Filipinos will respond to the inside jokes. However, it does build and improve as it progresses and the themes become more universal just with Filipino flavor.

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers is a bit uneven, but overall, delivers an entertaining tale of love and identity through a cultural lens.

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