One Hello

On "My Fake American Accent:" No doubt a call center is a hotbed of complex human relationships, but I guess you really have to be in the fray to care.

The rainy season is well and truly upon us and I'm trying to think of where to find chic galoshes. So through the slushy city streets, I went–bootless–and found myself at Robinson's Galleria, where there's a single theater devoted to independent film. From June 17 to 23, Indie Sine is playing My Fake American Accent, a finalist at last year's Cinemalaya at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Directed by Ned Trespeces, MFAA (as I shall now refer to it) tells the story of five call center agents: Eric (Jonathan Neri), the awkward newbie, Samp (Cherry Mae Canton), the Goth girl, Astrid (Tracy Abad) the geeky chick, Buster (Miro Valera), the military school drop-out, and Meryl (Martin de la Paz), the guy named after the actress because he can do accents. Then there's their team leader Ms. Seva (played by theater actress Mailes Kanapi) who alternately bullies and coaxes them into raising the team's metrics. Who knew the stakes could get so high in the world of BPO ?

There were around 14 people at the 3.40 p.m. screening yesterday, a rainy Wednesday. Sitting in front of me there were six young people who looked like call center denizens themselves. I eavesdropped on their reactions to gauge their perception of the movie. The guy with crutches laughed sporadically and I heard one of them blurt, "The camera placement!" when the camera and camera man's reflection were visible in a scene that involved a mirror. At least these kids are paying attention, I thought. (Truth be told, my mind wandered in the direction of rain boots and the like.) Only Mailes Kanapi and her overblown theatricality and perfectly neutralized "American" accent could catch my attention. No doubt a call center is a hotbed of complex human relationships, but I guess you really have to be in the fray to care. However, I don't want to watch re-enacted team building pep talks and office gossip sessions, it's bad enough in real life.

After the screening, I wore my nosy cap and asked the folks in front of me why they went to see MFAA. "Well, we work at a call center and we just wanted to see if they got it right," said the long haired dude who seemed cool. And did they? "Some parts, yes, but not really," said the one next to him. A girl piped up: "I read somewhere that the director worked in call centers before." It is apparent that Ned Trespeces (who was nominated for an Urian award for his screenplay Jologs in 2002) wanted to do an edgy and honest portrayal of the call center culture. But according to the kids sitting in front of me, "Hindi naman ganyan, eh."

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I won't argue with them. But I did say that it was cool to see young people watch a Pinoy movie in the middle of the day. "We wanted to see for ourselves," said long hair. I'm with you, man.

To see the movie screening schedule, click here. To read Ria's previous blog posts, click here. To read other blogs, click here.

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