Piolo Pascual's usually intense acting slips several notches lower in his portrayal of a depressed Chinese-Filipino (Chinoy) in his latest indie film Chopsuey. His subdued performance as Jimmy Wong allows his co-stars to shine in this family drama.
Catherine Camarillo directs the matinee idol in this independent movie produced by Silangan Pictures and New Life Cinema. Named after the classic Chinese vegetable dish that has been adopted by Filipino cuisine, Chopsuey also boasts of a variety of characters who undergo bittersweet experiences as Chinese-Filipinos.
This film marks the directorial debut of Piolo's friend, Cathy, a journalism graduate of the University of the Philippines. She works as an assistant director at ABS-CBN. The movie is based on the script of Romualdo Avellanoza that won in the Film Development Foundation scriptwriting contest.
Chopsuey is Piolo's second indie movie after he starred in Kagat ng Dilim, which was written anddirected by Cesar Hernando. In the 15-minute short film, Piolo plays the role of a guerilla leader whose troop patrols the mountains of Central Luzon during the ‘50s.
The dish chopsuey plays an important role in the life of the Wong family. Cooking the vegetable dish is a gesture of sacrifice and love for Claire (Dimples Romana), it is used to impress friends of Leslie (Krista Ranillo), while Annette (Andrea del Rosario) does not appreciate the time and effort spent in cooking this labor-intensive meal.
Chopsuey brings to light some traditional practices of Chinoys, namely setting up arranged marriages, venerating one's ancestors, and lighting incense as a form of prayer. The movie laments that even though Chinese-Filipinos are people endowed with free will, tradition continues to dictate upon them the path that they must choose.
Claire is stuck in a loveless marriage although all she wants is to tour the entire country for the perfect ingredients for her chopsuey. Annette is stuck in the Philippines even though her source of happiness is located in another country (and happens to be a woman). Leslie is stuck in a job that she detests and is forced to like a guy simply because he is a pureblooded Chinese.
"Man is condemned to be free," says the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. This paradox is man's curse and blessing—the same burden being carried by the Wong siblings as they try to deal with their Chinese-Filipino heritage.
Chopsuey, directed by Catherine Camarillo, is being screened in select cinemas.