Review by Cameron Maitland
There are many films that achieve greatness by showing a ‘day in the life’ of a social microcosm and exploring the greater influences that play upon them. Brillante Mendoza’s film Serbis exists as one of these pieces but explores a microcosm very far from what any Western film has ever touched.
Serbis explores the in’s and out’s of the somewhat ironically named Family Theatre, a run-down pornographic movie house in a run-down district in the Philippines. The theatre is run by the large extended family of powerful matriarch Nanay Flor. The action tends to focus on Flor’s daughter Nayda, a former nurse who is put in charge when her mother must attend a court case prosecuting their father. The court case alone brings light to the socio-economics of the Phillipines but the entire day in the life of Nayda exists as a sort of upstairs/downstairs drama of the theatre and its guests. But of course, in a world like, this upstairs are transsexual prostitutes and downstairs are accidental pregnancies.
Beyond the fascinations the intricate and layered plot brings, the film also is a success due to its evocative cinematography. The run-down theatre is as much a character as its patrons and the voyeuristic eye of the camera does often take the outsiders view of the action that allows even the most foreign audiences an ‘in’ for understanding the characters and their surroundings.
Serbis is often shocking and scathing in its subtle attacks on Filipino culture and some scenes are not for the weak of heart or stomach but if you stick through you’ll definitely leave with an entertaining experience that also illuminates more about their culture than perhaps the filmmakers even intended.
Brilliante Mendoza | Philippines/France | 2008 | 94min
Wed. Oct. 1 | 10:30am | Empire Granville Theatre 2
Thur. Oct. 2 | 9:15pm | Empire Granville Theatre 3