Films & Schedules

  • Serbis

  • Brillante Mendoza

The Philippines/France
94 minutes

Production Company:
SWIFT Productions/ Centerstage Productions
Executive Producer:
Didier Costet
Ferdinand Lapuz
Armando Lao
Production Designer:
Benjamin Padero, Carlo Tabije
Odyssey Flores
Claire Villa-Real
Emmanuel Nolet Clemente
Gian Gianan
Principal Cast: Gina Pareño, Jaclyn Jose, Julio Diaz, Coco Martin, Kristofer King

International Sales Agent:
Fortissimo Films

TIFF Tags: Queer Interest  Sexuality  Asia  Poverty  Family 

Friday September 0506:00PM VARSITY 2 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Sunday September 0710:30AM AMC 5 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Acclaimed Filipino director Brillante Mendoza (Slingshot, The Masseur) is no stranger to his country's urgent and intertwining issues of poverty, class distinction and religion. If his earlier works had captured the raw and visceral quality of modern-day Manila slums by using cinéma-vérité, then Serbis sees Mendoza graduate to the allegorical realm of filmmaking. The frenetic hand-held camerawork that had become his hallmark has been reworked to carefully track the individuals dwelling within a dilapidated cinema house. As such, the sense of interior geography becomes as much a part of the film's character as the constant noise of the traffic outside. The cumulative result is a powerful, provocatively explicit and uncompromising portrayal of a Filipino family at its most desperate – a perfect metaphor for a country under so many economic, social and political upheavals.

Serbis tells the story of a matriarchal family – owners of a run-down cinema house that shows soft-porn films. But the building is also teeming with a whole different subset of the societal fringes: hustlers, transsexuals and their clientele. The title Serbis directly refers to the concept of “service,” whether that provided by overseas Filipino workers or, in this case, by male prostitutes plying their wares in a dingy cinema house ironically named “Family.”

The multiple plot strands follow a day in the life of members of the extended Pineda family as they struggle with their unfulfilled lives. But the heart of the film belongs to the matriarch, Nanay Flor, who has filed a bigamy case against her estranged husband. Her sense of righteous indignation at a system that has failed her goes hand in hand with her frailty and vulnerability as she watches both her business and family crumble before her very eyes. Even the younger generation, as represented by Nanay Flor's nephew Alan, cannot bring any hope: he chooses to abandon his responsibilities to his family for an uncertain future. His decision brings an ambiguous conclusion to a film that never preaches or moralizes, but instead chooses to show how life in the Philippines is a simple matter of survival above all else.

Raymond Phathanavirangoon

Brillante Ma. Mendoza was born in San Fernando, the Philippines. He studied advertising at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. His first feature film, The Masseur (05), screened in the Discovery section of the Festival in 2005. He has since directed the features Summer Heat (06), The Aeta Teacher (06), Foster Child (07), Slingshot (07) and Serbis (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award