“Holy week has started. You shouldn’t be having any fun,” Patricia (Agot Isidro) chides her son Paolo (Noel Comia Jr.), whose friends Kachi (John Vincent Servilla), Gilligan (Jigger Sementilla) and his sister Mimaw (Kim Chloe Oquendo) have piled into his bedroom in “Death of Nintendo,” to played the damned device. Although Easter means church services to Patricia, you can tell it means pastel eggs and candies to the kids — as well as the filmmakers behind this charming coming-of-age tale set in the Philippines, to go by the film’s festive color palette, where there’s constantly more than meets the eye.
While “Loss of Innocence” would be an equally accurate title, it simply wouldn’t be as casual or period-specific as what director Raya Martin and writer Valerie Castillo Martinez have called their collaboration, which cleverly conveys the ups and downs for Paolo as if his life was set to the soundtrack of Super Mario Bros. However, thinking “Death of Nintendo” is exclusively his story is the first sleight of hand when Martin and Castillo Martinez tell a story where there are no men around, as much as Paolo, Kachi and Gilligan are all ready to be called that. Although their fathers are absent for various reasons, the boys’ mothers have all filled in admirably, yet still can’t keep an eye on them at all times, which is how the trio gets serious about pursuing circumcision after Kachi tells Paolo and Gilligan how his older brother Badong (Jude Matthew Servilla) grew two sizes after getting one. (The strength of the Roman Catholic faith in the country often pushes the procedure well after birth.)
As accurately as the filmmakers capture the early ‘90s milieu complete with Reebok Pumps and Michael Jordan mimicry, the way they’re able to show how certain notions that the kids don’t yet entirely comprehend yet capture the imagination is even more dead on, and the impressionable Paolo could use the confidence, having recently tangled with a bully named Jimbo (Cayden Williams), an ugly American who has claimed the local basketball court as his own, and developing a crush on Shiara (Elijah Alejo), a girl he saw at the community pool. When Badong is considered the height of aspiration for the boys, living it up as a cashier at Jollibee’s whose gift at sweet-talking customers is mistaken for some worldly wisdom that they have yet to unlock, “Death of Nintendo” has great fun in store for the recently teenaged that can likely relate and their parents who surely know better by now, and Martin and Castillo Martinez are smart to give equal weight, if not more, to Mimaw’s path towards womanhood as her brother, Kachi and Paolo pursue the services of a moyle, continually injecting a consideration of estrogen into a genre traditionally awash in testosterone.
“I don’t know why we have to go through these things,” Gilligan laments towards the end of “Death of Nintendo,” reflecting on the ridiculous lengths that he and his friends have to go to reach adulthood and although it will take some time for them to laugh about, the endearing comedy lets audiences do so immediately.
“Death of Nintendo” will screen at the Berlin Film Festival on February 23rd at 2 pm at the Cubix 8, February 26th at 10 am at the Zoo Palast 2 and February 28th at 2 pm at the CinemaxX 1.