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A good-natured look at a family in cross-cultural chaos

In Rod Pulido's "The Flip Side," one Filipino sibling explores roots, one copies whites and one emulates blacks.

November 08, 2002|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Rod Pulido's "The Flip Side" takes an affectionate, good-natured and revealing look at a suburban L.A. Filipino American family who live in a spacious, comfortable modern-style home in a pleasant upscale tract. The Delacruzes (Abe Pagtama and Ester Pulido) are a successful, settled middle-aged couple, both of whom work and have provided well for there three children. They're financially secure but not rich.

It's summer but only their daughter Marivic (Ronalee Par) is working, at a mall. Pretty and tart-tongued, Mari talks like a Valley girl, is self-absorbed and is so eager to be seen as all-American she would love to be able to rid herself of any traces of her Filipino heritage. Deep into basketball and rap music, Davis (Jose Saenz) is a height-challenged NBA hopeful and emulates African American teens in style and speech. While Mari identifies with whites and Davis with blacks, the reflective, sensitive Darius (Verwin Gatpandan) has discovered his mission is to embrace Filipino culture.

In short, Pulido is posing the familiar cultural identity issue commonly experienced by young people of immigrant parents, but he does so in a deftly compassionate manner. As a first-time filmmaker Pulido has written a script a tad too talky, but his pacing is pretty good. He also has hit just the right tone to express some serious observations with humor and compassion.

Darius occasionally carries some of his notions of ethnic fidelity to extremes, such as wearing a traditional Filipino loin cloth, but he is on to something. He finds that his siblings know virtually nothing of Filipino culture --or for that matter, Filipino American contributions to U.S. culture and society -- and couldn't care less.

Caught up so long in making a good life in America for themselves and their children, his parents have grown largely indifferent to their heritage. Touchingly, Darius has reached out to his grandfather (Peping Baclig), a World War II veteran who has withdrawn into himself and secretly plays the lottery in hope of winning money for a visit to the Philippines. When Darius asks his mother how long it has been since his grandfather has visited his homeland, she replies, "Oh, maybe 40 years -- it's not important."

But of course it is, as are the other facets of cross-cultural identity that in some ways might verge on the painful had not Pulido viewed them with such a light touch. The first film by a Filipino American filmmaker to premiere at Sundance, "The Flip Side" is a small picture of many satisfactions.


'The Flip Side'

MPAA rating: Unrated.

Times guidelines: All ages.

Verwin Gatpandan...Darius Delacruz

Jose Saenz...Davis Delacruz

Ester Pulido...Mrs. Delacruz

Ronalee Par...Marivic

Peping Baclig...Lolo

Abe Pagtama...Mr. Delacruz

A Puro Pinoy presentation. Writer-producer-director Rod Pulido. Cinematographer Robert Christopher Webb. Editor Andrea Zondler. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

At selected theaters.

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