I remember my sister asking me an odd question when we first moved to a predominantly Caucasian suburb in the U.S. a few years ago: "How many Filipinos did you see at the mall?"
At the time, I didn't really pay any attention--I wasn't actively seeking other Filipinos out. But the question ricocheted in my mind for quite some time. What she was really asking was: in a sea of white people, are we brown folks being represented? Are we visible? Can we take comfort in the fact that there are other people who look like us?
Watching Filipino comedian Jo Koy's movie 'Easter Sunday' brought those feelings back again. New movies are produced, made, filmed and shown in theatres every day. How many new release movies have you seen in North America with Filipinos in them?
'Easter Sunday' may well be the very first widely released Hollywood movie with an (almost) all-Filipino cast. Thank you, Steven Spielberg, producer extraordinaire: for the first time in forever in North America, we Filipinos are able to watch a movie about us at our nearest Cineplex.
Sure, the plot is thin, predictable, and to borrow a favourite Filipino word, a little "corny". However, there are a few genuinely funny moments when Jo Koy's signature stand-up comedic style shines like his bald head (sorry, Jo Koy): the church scene where he expertly takes on dual God and Jesus roles is simply comedic gold.
Had the movie been an hour-long stand-up show like one of Jo Koy's Netflix specials "Comin' in Hot", it would have been a blockbuster. But the movie gets bogged down by side stories of "gang members" and catty spats between Jo Koy's mom and aunt (in the movie) Lydia Gaston and the ever-sexy Tia Carrere.
What the movie gets right is the importance of family. Every family has drama: some long-standing feud gets rehashed between siblings, mother-child relationships gets played out and amplified at every get-together. And yet, as perfectly shown in a crucial dinner scene when Gaston asks Jo Koy if she did a good job as a mom, Jo Koy answers she did, and he loves her for pushing him hard.
What it gets right is the importance of food: at a park picnic, "boodle fight" Filipino food is displayed with pride and creativity. Banana leaves are used as the backdrop for charcuterie-styled rice, seafood, barbecue, skewered veggies and fruit. Filipinos love food, and there's always food a-plenty at family gatherings.
Easter Sunday may not make its mark like Crazy Rich Asians, but here's the important thing: Filipinos have been represented. We've been given an opportunity to show our culture on the big screen. Our stories are being told on a bigger platform.
In short, Filipinos are in the mall, and we are partying. Hard!
Rent or buy Easter Sunday on Amazon's Prime Video