The Debut

Rated 3.0 Filipino-Americans living in Los Angeles face numerous challenges as scrimmages between ethnic tradition and assimilation affect family and friends in this compelling if oversimplified drama from writer-director Gene Cajayon. Most of the film orbits a birthday party thrown for 18-year-old Rose (Bernadette Balagtas). The presence of a gangsta son of a guest and festering riffs between fathers and sons threaten to dampen the celebration in a story about parental sacrifice, the pursuit of one’s dreams and bigotry. Dante Basco is excellent as a sort of Filipino Fred Savage with Wonder Years growing pains who, much to the chagrin of his father, wants to become an artist rather than a doctor. The film plays like an ABC Afterschool Special with swear words but successfully captures Filipino culture as its latest generation rubs shoulders with hip-hop, basketball, interracial relationships and handguns.