Berlin International Film Festival: “Death Of Nintendo” Is A Colorful Coming Of Age Story

A little bit of the Berlinale is here at Hollywood News today, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, I’ve got a Berlin International Film Festival review to file. It’s for Death of Nintendo, a coming of age period piece, even if the period being discussed is the recent past, specifically the 90’s. Folks over in Berlin really enjoyed this one, and if the movie is handled properly, it could very well become a crossover success on the independent film scene later on this year. It has got the goods, that’s for sure. Foreign titles breaking through are always a crapshoot, but after Parasite making Oscar history, anything is possible, so hope springs eternal here for this effort from the Philippines.

The movie is a coming of age tale, taking place in the 1990’s, and specifically in suburban Manila. Plot wise, it’s very reminiscent of any number of coming of age stories, albeit with an international twist. Here, we follow a quartet of 13 year old friends, newly into their teenage years, as they begin to grow up. At the outset, video games are the focus, as they’re still relatively new and can blow a kid’s mind with the simplest of graphics. However, for Mimaw, Paolo, Kachi, and Gilligan, they soon find themselves not just enjoying these games, but beginning to enter into the adult world, sometimes involving young love, sometimes involving far graver issues. For Mimaw, it’s a broken heart. For Paolo, it’s dealing with his overprotective mother. Moreover, there’s a series of earthquakes in town, which are leading up to Mt. Pinatubo’s historic volcanic eruption, which is causing countrywide blackouts. That would be a problem, regardless, but for the friends, it’s also prevention them from playing video games. Raya Martin directs a screenplay by Valerie Castillo Martinez, with music by Yudhi Arfani and Zeke Khaseli, as well as cinematography from Ante Cheng.

There is a great deal of nostalgia to be found here, even if the story itself is very specific. The desire to just play video games, either with your friends, or just alone, is a hallmark for a whole generation of people. Now, issues like teenage circumcision are not prevalent in most cultures, so there are very Manila centric moments here, but the overall feeling is pretty universal. In some ways, this is a spiritual sequel to Stand By Me, in the way that friends growing up in different ways speaks to audiences throughout all time periods and locations. It’s to the film’s credit that it’s able to transport a viewer back in time like this.

Death of Nintendo is a strong calling card film for director Raya Martin. His direction is confident and steady, helping to make the pacing fly by. Scribe Valerie Castillo Martinez sets the stage well, allowing Martin to execute his vision rather capably. The acting here is nothing to particularly write home about, but it never holds the work back. It would not shock me one bit to see Martin put out a huge release in the next few years, where it’s a production from the Philippines or a studio project here in the states. He’s certainly someone to watch out for.

When it comes to our shores, Death of Nintendo is a potential breakout indie hit. The Berlin International Film Festival has already seen and adored it, so it’s only a matter of time before this moves from the Berlinale to other venues. A festival run is likely in the cards, so be on the lookout for this one. It’s a charming little flick that is almost impossible to resist, so don’t sleep on it when the time comes…

Be sure to check out Death of Nintendo when it comes stateside!

(Photos courtesy of the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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