Serbis

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Serbis is an independent film by Brillante Mendoza, starring Gina Pareño and RP’s prince of indie movies Coco Martin. The film is a story of men who offer sexual services inside a movie house. It was invited to the official competition of the 61st Cannes Festival in France and was regarded as the most controversial in Cannes for the year 2008.

Plot

A rural family decides to run a prostitute service based in a fake theater in Angeles, Pampanga. The theater shows dated sexy double-feature films. The old building also serves as the residence of the family. Nanay Flor serves as the matriarch of the movie house while her family serve as her employees. Her daughter Nayda, son-in-law Lando and adopted daughter Jewel take turns in manning the ticket booth and canteen. Her nephews Ronald and Alan also help in the family business as a projectionist and billboard painter respectively.

Nanay Flor files a bigamy case against her husband but loses the case and feels betrayed when her own son testifies in court in favor of his father. Alan, financially unprepared for marriage, feels burdened by the fact that his pregnant girlfriend wants him to marry her. Nayda is torn between her commitment to her husband and her attraction to her cousin Ronald.

Unknown to the family, aside from movies, there's another kind of business going on inside the theater. The movie house also serves as a den for "serbis" boys (male prostitutes) who offer sexual services to gay patrons for a price.

Cast

Reception

The film caused a stir in the Philippines with its unbearably loud ambient noise and its graphic and seemingly gratuitous depiction of sex and nudity. Submitted to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board for public exhibition in 2008, the movie survived with two major cuts to sex scenes and was rated an R18.

Such was the advance international buzz of the film that it was invited to compete at Cannes Film Festival, being the 3rd entry from the Philippines (following the films of movie great Lino Brocka, Jaguar and Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim. Its premiere there was marked by the walking out of several veteran film critics who protested Mendoza's version of "misery porn."

On 30 January 2009, the film was premiered in New York. Writing for the New York Times, its chief film critic Manohla Dargis described the film: "The heavenly bodies that populate our films bring their own pleasures ... alighting onscreen as if from a dream. But the bodies in [‘Serbis’], which received little love at the 2008 Cannes, are not heaven-sent, but neither are they puppets in a contrived nightmare. Rather, they lust, sweat, desire and struggle with the ferocious truth."

Reviews

"Explicit fellatio, blocked toilets and a crudely exploded ass-cheek boil form some of the more unsavory elements of “Service,” Brillante Mendoza’s latest opus that revels in shock value ... Moving into pseudo-Tsai Ming-liang territory is unlikely to win the prolific helmer further converts ... Most scenes are practically drowning in noise as the cacophony of the streets continuously invades the cinema’s public and private areas." – Jay Weissberg of Variety Magazine
"Director Brillante Mendoza continues the neo-realist vein of Foster Child and Sling Shot in Serbis, but displays marked improvement – both the grunge aesthetic and film language now bear his personal handwriting. To this, he adds some bristling sexuality, both gay and straight ... Bottom Line: An engaging domestic drama and stylishly seamy homage to the gay cinema rendezvous." – Maggie Lee in Hollywood Reporter

Awards

  • Best Picture – Gawad Urian (2009)
  • Best Director – Brillante Mendoza – Gawad Urian (2009)
  • Best Production Design – Gawad Urian (2009)
  • Best Cinematography – Gawad Urian (2009)
  • Golden Palm – Brillante Mendoza (Nominated) – Cannes Film Festival (2008)

References

Citation

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