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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 28, 2016

I America Movie Review: Good Concept But Director Loses Control Over His Material

THERE’S something inherently moving in the story of “I America” about an Amerasian girl looking for her American father. You can commend it for its intention to show the plight of half-breeds growing up in dysfunctional families and experiencing discrimination from other people. We heard it will have a wider theatrical release with Viva Entertainment as distributor.

This kind of material was tackled before in Manny Palo’s “David F”, also an entry in Cinemalaya some years ago, with a black boy looking for his African American dad. And just like it, “I America” is sadly not that well realized on the big screen.

Bela Padilla plays Erica, a TV commercial model from Olongapo who succeeds in making a connection with her long lost biological dad, John Berry (Rob Rownd). John seems genuinely interested in meeting her to take her to America. But when Erica gets her birthday certificate, she realizes that her real dad might be someone else, not John.

Too bad that the movie lacks appropriate focus, with the director losing the right grip on his material. This lack of control makes the movie go to various unnecessary off tangent excursions involving minor characters, like Erica’s adopted siblings, with their own subplots and issues that do not really interest us viewers even with its boisterous bouts of screaming and hair pulling.

There’s an attempt to inject lots of humor, like Erica speaking in broken English, to make the proceedings on screen more bearable, but the film becomes a talky exercise and quite tedious viewing after a while. You’d really wish writer-director Ivan Payawal (“The Comeback”, his equally chaotic Cinema One entry last year with Kaye Abad) got a co-writer to help make the script more disciplined and precise.

Bela Padilla gives an earnest performance as Erica, the Fil-Am girl who dreams of having a new life in America (she’s actually Filipino-British in real life.) She’s particularly convincing in that important confrontation scene with her mother, Elizabeth Oropesa, a former prostitute who now runs her own night club. Her mom makes a joke and she answers back with anger and sarcasm.

As we all know, Beth O is a formidable actress and she manages to sizzle in the role of the calloused mom who seems to have no love at all for her daughter, which is probably why the Cinemalaya best supporting actress was given to her (in a tie with Lollie Mara for another movie.) But their fairly fine performances are not good enough to redeem the movie from the director’s indulgences.