It could be tricky for a film director—especially a first-time director—to cast his own family in a movie. Considering the complex nature of their shared history, their dynamics, a straightforward comment or a careless instruction may not sit well with one member. And the two parties may end up not talking to each other at the dinner table.
But this wasn’t the case for the family behind the comedy “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers.” As the film’s director Dante Basco shared at a recent media conference organized by Netflix, working with his family was “brilliant” and “amazing in a lot of ways.”
The California-born Dante, who started out as an actor (he was famously Rufio in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook”), has been in the entertainment industry for 35 years. He and his brothers—Derek, Dionysio and Darion—when they were not breakdancing, were auditioning together for various acting jobs since they were little boys.
“My stars in the movie are actors that I've known my whole life. I've seen every single performance they've done,” says Dante. Which is basically saying no other director could handle these Basco boys better.
And since the siblings know each other so well, they also know which roles would suit them and which would best highlight their strengths. “You know, as an actor in Hollywood, whether you’re Filipino or not, the odds are you never really get to do what you can actually do. That’s just how Hollywood works, you know?” Dante says. The movie then served as that rare opportunity to show what these men are truly made of.
“The Fabulous Filipino Brothers” is not your ordinary comedy. It’s wild, crazy—outlandish even—but very Pinoy at heart. It’s a film about love, marriage and relationships. It’s composed of vignettes highlighting the different unique personas of four Filipino siblings.
Dayo Abasta (Derek), the eldest of the bros, feels obliged to pay for his brother’s wedding banquet. He’d do it even if it entails close encounters with a Yakuza gambler. Duke (Dante) rekindles an affair with an old flame (Solenn Heussaff) on his first trip to Manila. Danny Boy (Darion), broken-hearted and depressed, finds new love—a pregnant woman—in a dating app. And David (Dionysio) is, well, the wildest among the four. Watch out for the scene where he engages in a most salacious “food foreplay” at previously mentioned wedding banquet.
Dante says it feels kind of surreal that their whole lives and entire careers actually led him and his brothers to making a movie that speaks so much of their family, of their Filipino roots, and even their personal sentiments.
“The film is based on true stories—stories from my family and my extended family,” the director-actor says. It’s about the communities he knew and grew up with, the brothers’ feelings and personal stories going back home and reconnecting with ‘Pinas. Dante refuses to say which vignettes in the film are true-to-life but reveals some of his family members almost had a heart attack seeing the movie.
The movie is entitled “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers,” says Dante, “because we are Filipino and we’re proud to be Filipino.” He says that while he didn’t set out to make a definitive Filipino film, his goal really was to represent Pinoys in the international film arena, at a time when Asian artists are starting to get recognized.
Three decades ago when he was starting out in Hollywood, Filipinos were virtually unknown in the industry. “When I first got into Hollywood, as a young Filipino actor, I would come in the room and they'd ask ‘What are you?’ And I would say ‘Filipino,’ and they would have no idea what that was.” Through the years, however, he got to shine in various Asian and Latino roles.
“We're in a golden era right now,” says Dante, noting the success of Asian films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Parasite,” and the rise of Pinoys like Manny Pacquiao and Jo Koy to prominence. “We’re at the highest profile we’ve been as Asians in the history of Hollywood,” he adds, as if also saying it’s about damn time for Filipinos to be represented. “We must tell stories about us.”
"The Fabulous Filipino Brothers" premieres on Neflix on November 17.