Telling the story of how President Manuel Quezon fought to save thousands of jews from annihilation during the holocaust, Quezon’s Game proves to be a powerful material, so relevant especially to this day and age when human lives have become merely just, yes, statistics. Helmed by Matthew Rosen and topbilled by Raymond Bagatsing as Manuel Quezon and Rachel Alejandro as Aurora Quezon, the film presents a stylized glimpse into that historical era.
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Filming historical flicks in our country can present quite a challenge as most of our historical buildings and locations are poorly preserved and have mostly already been modernized. Thanks to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, the filmmakers were able to somewhat take us to that era though stylistically and not as historically accurate just like how hollywood films would have done it. Thanks to the Matthew Rosen’s eye and clever filmmaking techniques, his work as also the film’s cinematographer gave us at the least, adequate visuals for a period film, knowing that they must have been working with a tight budget. +3
Evidently, the film is not perfect especially when it comes to its production design, where sometimes a Starbucks-looking outdoor umbrella could be seen in the background or some lighting fixtures are not consistent with the period its supposed to be in. Understandably, we know it’s because of the budget constraints but all these are forgivable and do not really take away from the essence of the story it wants to tell. -1
As the film’s director of photography, Rosen made use of high contrast lighting with harsh highlights which helped amplify the drama of mostly the characters incessantly in discussion. The stylistic approach was the way to go and proved to be an effective device to take us back in time. +2
Another laudable aspect of the film is its script with dialogue full of bravado, subtext and of course cinematic quotable quotes. With the film being of the talky kind, the discussions must be engaging and emotionally arresting and this, it has successfully achieved. +3
For a film where the characters are just talking most of the time about an impending danger without really seeing it, except for a few sequences where some film clips of the holocaust were shown, it has managed to create tension in the cinema and brought tears to the audience’s eyes with the triumph of their efforts. Yes, that included me. +3
The film also presents clearly humanized characters which makes them relatable even if they’re supposed to be of that era. This technique—as employed by Marvel movies—makes the characters more likable just like one of the scene stealing supports, the Jewish, Alex Frieder played by Billy Ray Gallion. With subtle scenes of discrimination, the audience is emotionally drawn to his plighy for his people and his top rank performance was just icing on the cake. +3
Raymond Bagatsing transforms into Manuel Quezon in this one, embodying the dignified stance of such a monumental leader. The film’s depiction of our beloved president is so beautifully flawed with hints of his being a debonair playboy but focuses on his bigheartedness when he stood for those who were powerless when nobody else did. Bagatsing’s performance with subtle speech nuances and a deep yet powerful gaze was transcendently inspirational, which was what his character exactly needed to be. +4
Rachel Alejandro as Aurora Quezon also shines as a strong female persona during a male-dominated era. Her headstrong nature and compelling portrayal glimmers through, balanced off by her unconditional love for Manuel bordering on martyrdom. Although, her character is clearly anchored on patriotism and human empathy. +2
However dramatized the final material would have resulted, I believe, Quezon’s Game has become quite an emotionally rousing piece to awaken our humanity and once again be proud of our nation and what we have achieved as a people through these noble gentlemen. +3
Twenty two points aren’t actually enough to point out the merits of Quezon’s Game. It is beautiful because and inspite of its imperfections. The film could actually be more cinematic than its current form but it does not take away from what the film has to say as audiences are moved and awoke as they leave the theater. In the end, isn’t that what cinema is all about?
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Photos courtesy of Star Cinema