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THE DEBUT ($25) is a warm and winning little independent film that only got made and distributed through the sheer tenacity of the filmmakers, actors, crew and those in the Filipino-American community that believed in it. I donít intend to discuss the behind-the-scenes drama of what went into the making of THE DEBUT, since the supplemental features contained on the DVD already do a better job, than I could possibly ever do. The plot of THE DEBUT follows Ben Mercado (Dante Basco), a Filipino- American who has fully assimilated into the American culture, despite his traditional parents. Not only has Ben become totally Americanized, he seems almost ashamed of his cultural heritage- always keeping a safe distance between his family and American friends. Making matters worse, is the fact that Ben is always butting heads with his working class father Roland (Tirso Cruz III), who wants his son to go to medical school, despite Benís desire to become a graphic artist.

The entire situation comes to a head on the night of his sisterís eighteenth birthday party, when Rose (Bernadette Balagtas) is to make official debut into society. Although the party is a big thing for Rose, the family and friends from the Filipino community, Ben would rather spend the evening at a drinking party with his American friends. Things, however, take an unexpected turn when Ben gets acquainted with his sisterís beautiful friend Annabelle (Joy Bisco) and is forced to deal with Augusto (Darion Basco), a former friend, who has grown into a street thug. Although THE DEBUT is about the Filipino-American experience, the story contains plenty of universal truths that will make it appeal to just about everyone that has grown up in America with a family that has tried to hang onto the ancestral culture. The cast of THE DEBUT also includes Eddie Garcia, Gina Alajar, Dion Basco, Derek Basco, Fe de los Reyes, Jayson Schaal and Brandon Martin.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE DEBUT available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. For a very low budget movie, THE DEBUT looks very good on DVD. The image is generally sharp and very nicely defined. Perhaps the picture doesnít have the silky quality of a big budget studio movie, but there isnít anything to complain about either. Colors appear pretty vibrant, and the pallet does tend to favor warmer hues, although there has been an effort by the filmmakers to keep all the primary colors on screen as much as possible. Flesh tones are always appealing and there are no problems with chroma noise or smearing. Blacks appear solid, white are pure and contrast is good. The film element used for the transfer displays a couple of errant blemishes, but is otherwise very clean. Film grain is occasionally noticeable, but is never more that mild in appearance. Digital compression artifacts remain in check throughout.

THE DEBUT comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack that decodes to standard surround. This is a rather nice sounding track that places an atmospheric quality over directionality, which is perfectly suited to this type of dialogue driven material. There is a lot of incidental music on the soundtrack, which has been well integrated into the mix and spread into the outlying channels to a nice effect. Fidelity is good, with the music coming across very pleasantly. Dialogue is always crisply rendered and fully intelligible, as long as the actors are speaking English, that is. No other language tracks are included on the DVD, although English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese and Tagalog subtitles have been provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a very nice complement of supplemental materials. Director Gene Cajayon and writer John Manal Castro are on hand for a very informative and rather enjoyable running audio commentary. The Making Of The Debut is a twenty-minute program that details the filmís long and difficult production history and features interviews with filmmakers, cast and others that made the film possible. The Little Film That Could: Touring The Country runs eight minutes and looks at the difficult theatrical distribution process the film went through without a formal distributor and absolutely no marketing budget. Additionally, the DVD includes three featurettes on the filmís art and music, as well as a brief portrait of the Basco Brothers. The original short film version of THE DEBUT by Gene Cajayon is also included, as is Diary Of A Gangsta Sucka by John Manal Castro. Six deleted scenes, a gag reel, a theatrical trailer and three TV spots close out the supplements.

As I stated above, THE DEBUT is a warm and winning little film that really deserves to be seen. Columbia TriStar has done a really good job with the special edition DVD, giving this little independent pretty much close to royal treatment. Since the DVD will finally give it a chance to reach a wide audience, avail yourself of the opportunity to see THE DEBUT in the comfort of your own home theater.



The Debut (2001)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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