Monday, September 25

‘The Fabulous Filipino Brothers’: Dante Basco on How His Return to the Philippines Helped Tell His Story

To many, Dante Basco is known as Rufio in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook.” Reality TV fans will remember him on “Hell’s Kitchen,” but over the years he has turned his hand to producing, directing and writing.

In “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers,” out now on-demand, he directs and stars, along with his brothers Derek Basco, Dionysio Basco, and Darion Basco, in the film structured as a series of vignettes following four brothers as their Filipino American family prepares for the ultimate Filipino event: a wedding.

As the narrative intercuts between the wedding celebration in Pittsburg, Calif., and the vignettes that focus individually on the four siblings during the buildup to the big event, Basco worked with fellow Filipino American cinematographer Andrea Walter to deliver his vision.

Says Walter, “Dante and I decided we wanted to give a different look for each brother. I also wanted a contrast between life here and life in the Philippines.  But at the heart of it, we wanted this nostalgic feeling inspired by the ‘90s.”

Walter and Dante Basco incorporated the warm, nostalgic tones into the frame. For Basco, who spent the last ten years going back and involving himself in the film community there. it was a chance to find out who he was. “I got to find out who I was as a Filipino, but I was also a Filipino American being in the Philippines.”

“There was a nod to like that feeling — the romantic feeling of going home, the cathartic feeling and the warmness of going home,” Basco says.

Walter says, “I kept the camera distant and cold, but once he gets home [to the Philippines] that color becomes saturated and starts to pop with colors to reflect that shift.”

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Basco and Walter shot the film in America and the Philippines on a small indie budget. “We had to plan everything. We talked about everything right down to shots and color boards,” says Basco, who was also editing while filming. “It was a very ambitious indie film in two different countries with a super big cast, and we really had to get into our strategies as filmmakers on how we’re going to be able to do this.”

The film ends, of course, with the highly anticipated wedding feast scene which Walter shot using a Steadicam and added more color and close-ups to in her framing. Walter says, “We had this idea to mimic the opening which sees audiences introduced to the film members, as Dante walks through and you get to that final shot of the brothers at the table. I thought we should end it with the same shot with that beautiful image of the family.”

Walter’s biggest challenge was shooting a family scene. While she endeavored to get the details she and Basco had discussed, she was working with extras. “It was stressful to shoot that many Filipinos. Everyone who is Filipino knows if you have that many of us in one room together, it’s insane. I had to make sure people weren’t looking into the camera or taking out iPhones,” she laughs. “There was someone who pulled out an iPad twice.”

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