"A giddy, unexpected pleasure: There is more wit, energy and imagination in any one frame of director Richard Wong and writer-composer-star H.P. Mendoza's original screen musical than in an entire decade's worth of lame Hollywood attempts to revivify the genre." -- Scott Foundas, LA Weekly
"'Chicago' won the Oscars. 'Moulin Rouge' is the new 'Cabaret' and 'Hedwig [and the Angry Inch]' the new 'Rocky Horror Show.' But I'm telling ya: This is a better American movie musical than any of those gas-baggin' newbies." -- Dennis Harvey, San Francisco Guardian
"Fresh, easy-flowing and irresistible!" -- Kevin Thomas, LA Times
The reviews are in for "Colma: The Musical," and if you're Pinoy, they're cause for giddy high-fives.
You see, "Colma: The Musical" was made by Filipino-Americans. The indie film, shot on digital format, stars H.P. Mendoza (that's him in the photo above in a scene from the movie) who's also the composer, lyricist and screenwriter, as well as other Fil-Am actors like Jake Moreno, L.A. Renigen and Larry Soriano. So far, the "itty-bitty movie with a great big heart" (as the New York Times calls it) has won the Special Jury Prize in three different film festivals in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. It's also been nominated in the Independent Spirit Awards.
Who is H.P. Mendoza? The "Colma" website describes him thus: "A native of San Francisco whose writing credits include 'Brown Sheep of the Family,' 'Over the Walt Whitman,' and the first three installments of the Magic At series. 'Colma: The Musical' was originally written as an indie pop album. H.P. Mendoza did guest work on the albums of Philadelphia bands Super Avilyn and Elek-true, but recently completed his solo album, 'Everything is Pop.' He is currently working with Richard Wong ["Colma's" director'] on another musical as well as a sequel to "Colma"--"Serramonte: The Musical."
You wouldn't know he's Fil-American from that short bio, but the latest praise for the movie, by the NYTimes' Manohla Dargis, makes it explicit: "'Colma' is about three young people on the brink of that terrifying adventure called life, but it’s also about how we learn to give voice--joyfully, honestly, loudly--to the truest parts of ourselves, parts not everyone else hears... A large part of what makes the movie refreshing, even when it’s not always especially fresh, is the matter-of-fact way it approaches youth as a given instead of a crucible. In 'Colma' being young (or gay or Filipino) isn’t a recipe for automatic disaster; it’s what helps define these specific characters at this specific time."
Yep, the character Mr. Mendoza plays in 'Colma' is gay, too. Ahem, what a surprise.
"Out of the closet to everyone but his darkly glowering father (Larry Soriano), Rodel (Mr. Mendoza) scribbles on scraps of paper that mirror his disconnectedness and sings with as much hurt as he speaks," writes Ms. Dargis. "He’s the familiar angry young man with the caustic wit that’s as much shield as weapon. About the only people who have breached his defenses are Billy (Jake Moreno), an aspiring actor who calls himself a thespian (it’s unclear if he’s in on that particular joke), and the beautiful Maribel (L. A. Renigen), a vamp with a face as round as the moon. Together these three restlessly peer into the fog, talking smut and Emily Dickinson and, every so often, pouring their hearts out in song. (They dance, but not much.)"
When will this film make it to our movie theaters, and when will the soundtrack album hit local shelves? Paging Viva Films and Music One!
(More raves here.)