Cast: Brian Rivera, Jon Norman Schneider, Josephine De Jesus, L.A. Renigen, Patrick Epino, Theresa Navarro
Centerpiece Film (Narrative), 2018 CAAMFest
With darkly comedic undertones and mixed genres, H.P. Mendoza’s transgressive BITTER MELON features a family overcoming their domestic violence demons in shocking ways. New Yorker Declan Santos (Jon Norman Schneider) returns to San Francisco’s Excelsior District for a Christmas reunion with his family, for the first time in a decade. The house is filled with his mom, brother Troy (Patrick Epino), Troy’s family, and other brother Moe (Brian Rivera). Nothing much has changed, including walking on eggshells around Troy’s fits of violence, and leaving it up to chance or God that one day he will change. Eggshells crumble when Troy discovers his wife has reached out for help, and, conflicted, Declan must step up to finally put Troy in his place. As Declan relives two generation of domestic abuse, BITTER MELON puts family — and the jokes we tell to preserve it — into perspective.
A film 20 years in the making, BITTER MELON portrays a family’s approach to its dark secret as one might the titular vegetable: tolerance rather than full embrace. Provocative and risky, Mendoza infuses the film with his deadpan humor and unique brand of satire, taking us to a Bay Area free of fog, techies, and hipsters, where Filipino locals deal with the weight of divisive issues that have lurked within family homes for generations.
– Erwin Mendoza
A joyful ode to coming-of-age and exploring new sexualities as a young Filipina in Hawaii.