There have been already several reviews by movie critics of Quezon's Game, a movie that tells the story of a little-known point in Philippine history. The reviews are mixed in nature, from the movie being heralded as a great account of the late President Manuel Quezon's courageous and compassionate stand for the Jews being persecuted during the Nazi regime, and being lamented for the seeming lacklustre discussions which are the main scenes in the movie.
This is not a review. This is a sharing of a layperson's take on the movie (writer pictured at a Sydney screening). Before I proceed to give my spectator's views of the movie, I wish to highlight that the movie had won several awards in international film festivals. A check on Wikipedia showed that in 2018, it garnered 12 awards in the Cinema World Fest Awards. These included: Award of Merit for Drama Feature, Award of Recognition for Directing, Award of Excellence for Actor, Award of Excellence for Actress, Award of Excellence for Supporting Actor, Award of Excellence for Lighting, Award of Excellence for Original Score, Award of Excellence for Produced Screenplay, Award of Excellence for Set Design, Award of Excellence for Sound Design, Award of Excellence for Costume Design, and Award of Merit for Color Treatment.
Wait,there's more! In 2019 IndieFEST Film Awards, it won: “Awards of Excellence” for Lead Actor, Direction, Asian Film, Cinematography, and Original Score; 2019 WorldFest-Houston International Film + Video Festival: “Gold Remi Awards” for Best Foreign Feature, Best Director, Best Producer, and Best Art Direction and in 2019 Cinema World Fest Annual Gala: Best in Show Grand Champion.
The film also received an Excellence Special Mention at the 2019 Accolade Global Film Competition; was a finalist at Israel’s 2019 Near Nazareth Festival; and an official selection at the 2019 Maryland International Film Festival and 2019 Ramsgate International Film + TV Festival.
Indeed it was a world-acclaimed movie. Personally, however, I did not get the same impact as the dialogues of "A Few Good Men" which even after a few times of watching it, still had me hanging on each word exchanged by the actors in a closed room setting.
Having said that, there were three scenes that had me in tears as I felt the intense emotions of the characters. The first one was the chance meeting of President Quezon with the Jew who was one of the twenty five he was instrumental in helping out of Shanghai. Quezon [Raymond Bagatsing] had tears when 'Mr Blumenthal' thanked him sincerely and expressed appreciation of the life in his new home.
I also felt the intense emotions of both Quezon and his wife Aurora [Rachel Alejandro] in the bedroom scene where Aurora expressed her anguish about the family's suffering of Quezon spending little time with them and their great fear of losing Quezon to tuberculosis. I cried with her, watching her face wracked in pain as she wailed "Huwag mo akong iiwan, Manuel!" [Do not leave me Manuel!].
Then there was the touching scene towards the end as more than a thousand of Jews were arriving on barges negotiating the water touching the edge of the Malacanan Palace. Quezon's daughter Baby [Kate Alejandrino] was seen hugging and greeting the Jews, with both Quezon and Aurora also in tears looking down at the scenario.
As the credits rolled, we saw photos showing the close resemblance of the actors to the real life characters, indicating fantastic casting. Indeed, there was a good likeness in each of the main characters and the actors who played them.
For me, the film achieved its mission of sharing with the viewers the story of how Quezon put aside the risks of losing votes and earning the wrath of the local and American politicians against his "Open Door Policy" and worked courageously towards saving some 1200 Jews. It tells of a great humanitarian achievement of a man, who in his final days, humbly asked, “Could I have done more?”
It is a must-see film especially by people of Filipino heritage. I have watched it twice now, and would rewatch it again.
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Quezon’s Game is directed by Matthew Rosen, written by Janice Y. Perez and Dean Rosen which was based on the original story of Matthew Rosen and Lorena H. Rosen, under the Supervising Producer Marizel S. Martinez and Creative Producers Enrico C. Santos and John Paul E. Abellera. The film’s Executive Producers were Carlo L. Katigbak, Olivia M. Lamasan, Linggit Tan-Marasigan, and Lorena H. Rosen.
It was produced by ABS-CBN Films in association with iWant and Kinetek and distributed through ABS-CBN TFC Global.