How does one make an incisive discussion about Filipino diaspora? By busting out the good ol’ Karaoke machine, that’s how. Or at least in Matthew Victor Pastor’s beholding “Melodrama / Random / Melbourne!”, in Cine-O-Ke!, a series of songs played over vignettes of people, lost and losing it in Australia. There’s one for each facet of life, it seems—sex, connection, and finally, family. They’re set to falsely whimsical alt-rock tunes and against the backdrop of a neon-rimmed nighttime Melbourne. These interstitial vignettes happen in-between confessionals, shot in profile and black-and-white, by Aries (Bridget O’Brien), a Fil-Australian who’s making a film about the tapestry that is dating, the hopeful but possibly futile famine for meaningful connection.
For a good while, the film builds itself around the framework of its protagonist’s documentary. But on the film unfurls and ultimately reveals its documentarian, not as its all-seeing narrator but simply another character suspect to the film’s “might induce emotion” vignettes. We learn that she has a sister, named Angela (Celina Yuen), a dancer moonlighting as a hoodwinking empress, tied with a collective of man-boys selling a pre-packaged service that teaches unskilled males the language of suave. We are offered dubiety Aries feels of her own film, worried if it’s truthful to the existence of Asian-Australians. And we’re met by her mother, Agnes (Rachel Javier), who lodges existentially in a country that beckons but only reluctantly embraces.
Here, it clicks. Talking heads become characters, and red-eyed accounts become disheartening stories of everyday race and gender oppression. Conversations start to carry greater emotion and weight. All of which contributes to its immensely fascinating experiment in structure, and it’s through this narrative flip-flopping that Pastor’s film depicts the Fil-Australian existence with boundless cinematic vigor, even if some of its points don’t quite land.
2018 / Drama
Director: Matthew Victor Pastor Screenplay: Celina Yuen and Matthew Victor Pastor Cast: Celina Yuen, Bridget O’Brien, Rachel Javier