Headsets and Cigarettes in Ned Trespeces’s My Fake American Accent (2008) July 19, 2008Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi.
Directed by Ned Trespeces
Written by Onnah Valera and Ned Trespeces
Cast: Mailes Kanapi, Jonathan Neri, Martin dela Paz, Miro Valera
In Competition, 2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival
My Fake American Accent examines the boom of the call center industry in the Philippines, undoubtedly the fastest-rising commerce in local shores that employs thousands of fresh graduates, undergraduate students, and even professionals to support the growing needs of their families. A phenomenon that started almost ten years ago, the industry prides itself as the strongest battery of our economy. Considering its growth, the Philippines can actually outlast India in the outsourcing business because they say we speak better English – – and that’s what we get from Hollywood and Playboy in the last one hundred years of cultural imperialism – – but that’s another story. Perhaps it’s safe to say that the Filipino mindset in terms of work is sacrificial, that is, one person is equivalent to five, six, seven, or even more members. That’s why when the breadwinner dies, everyone dies, or in coma. It is not an easy job – – contrary to the speculations of the narrow-minded – – and the film tells us so. The choice of topic is clever and promising, only that I believe Trespeces and Valera should have been given more time to develop their script and polish their characters to enable them to dig deeper in the milieu – – because I’ve been there before and yes I find their insights keen and well-rounded, except for the fact that it hasn’t presented a plate of dessert, something we know nothing of, something that can let us examine ourselves and what we are doing at that moment sitting there and watching a film, something that strikes us harshly – – because life in the call center world is indeed harsh – – harsher than the battle between team leaders, harsher than keeping up with the handling time, harsher than the Americans threatening to bitchslap you, harsher than the lung cancer and aneurysm that you might get from the smoke and body clock interference, harsher than stupid co-workers who look, smell, and act like zombies, and harsher than this life in third world that serves the countries who treated us as slaves before, and now we’re doing it again, in the comfort of air-conditioned offices with shower rooms and lounge areas – – it is a consent of slavery. I understand that the writers want a lighter take on the subject and I admire that. The conflicts arise naturally because they come from the characters themselves – – the dimensions of their lives eaten up by pseudo-corporate work – – and that’s the edge. But my only problem is the treatment. The humor is there but it falls short – – it’s almost there but the crest of the wave touches only the tip of our emotions, it seems to hold back and stop and start all over again; the manner how some scenes are delivered and edited is just out of place. The simplicity and lightheadedness must have overcome me, but aside from that, I guess I’m missing the point. * *