Is Ded Na Si Lolo Oscar-Worthy?

Ded Na Si Lolo (international title: Grandpa is Dead) was chosen by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) to represent the country in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 82nd Academy Awards. The dramedy bested 11 other films in contention including Brillante Mendoza’s Lola (2009 Dubai International Film Festival’s Best Feature Film in the Asia-Africa Category), Francis Xavier Pasion’s Jay (2008 Cinemalaya’s Best Film), and Chris Martinez’s 100 (2008 Pusan International Film Festival’s Audience Award).

Why did FAP choose Ded Na Si Lolo despite not having any award or international fimfest exposure under its belt? Will it stand a chance against the likes of France’s A Prophet and Germany’s The White Ribbon? Both films were screened in Cannes. Wouldn’t the country, recently tagged by The Hollywood Reporter as a ‘hotbed of talents’, have more fighting chance if we sent Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza’s work instead?

We could only speculate why FAP chose Ded Na Si Lolo, but it isn’t difficult to see why. The film exudes a commanding sense of positivism, an element largely missing from the plethora of Filipino movies being recognized abroad. It isn’t poverty porn. There’s no violence and sex. Ded Na Si Lolo reflects the characteristics and values unique in the Filipino people like close family ties, optimism, and yes, a peculiar sense of humor.

Told through the eyes of a young boy, Ded Na Si Lolo is the comedic tale of a family mourning over the death of their patriarch. Unlike the Filipino-Chinese funerals depicted in the Mano Po series, the family is not well-off so there is no inheritance that the siblings have to fight over with. But they fight nevertheless. During the six-day wake, the brood’s flair for drama becomes apparent as unresolved issues and family secrets resurface.

The plot seems that it’s designed to be an all-out family drama, and it could have easily gone that way. But Director Soxie Topacio injected humor into the story through the numerous superstitious beliefs that Filipinos practice, however ridiculous they may be. When someone died, it’s as if everything is forbidden. You can’t wear red. You can’t sweep the floor. You can’t take a bath. Your tears shouldn’t fall on the coffin. And the list goes on.

The humorous script is backed up by an equally comedic delivery from the cast. Roderick Paulate demands your attention as the loud, cross-dressing sibling. His flamboyant and inane ways will leave you gasping for breath because of laughter. Roderick can easily shift from funny to serious. In the film’s dramatic moments, he shines as he lends enough humanity to what may initially appear as a caricature character. The rest of the cast are Gina Alajar, Elizabeth Oropesa, Dick Israel, and Manilyn Reynes.

Ded Na Si Lolo mixes the right blend of drama and comedy. This crowd pleaser makes fun of our eccentricities and beliefs. But in its heart, it tells the story of a family staying together and getting stronger amid personal differences and hardships.

Rating: 3/5

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