SDAFF 2020: A 90s Filipino Coming Of Age Story – ‘Death of Nintendo’ Reviewed

by Gary Catig

The San Diego Asian Film Festival not only showcases domestic creators but also provides an outlet to view the works of storytellers from the continent. Death of Nintendo is one such motion picture that is a Filipino coming of age story set in the 90s. Director, Raya Martin, and writer, Valerie Castillo Martinez, craft a pleasant film that depicts the fun, awkwardness and young love of the teenage years while evoking nostalgic sentiments from the era.

The movie centers on a group of young teen friends including Paolo (Noel Comia Jr.), Kachi (John Vincent Servilla) and brother and sister, Gilligan (Jiggerfelip Sementilla) and Mimaw (Kim Chloe Oquendo), the only girl in the group. Together, they help each other navigate bullies, overprotective parents and that first crush. The three boys make a pact to become circumcised as a rite of passage and become men. With all this and the constant brown outs from Mount Pinatubo earthquakes, they find less time to play their favorite 8-bit video games.

Death of Nintendo encapsulates what it’s like to be that age participating in some delinquent antics but still maintaining your innocence. You really feel the closeness and camaraderie of the group in their chemistry and ribbing which is a testament to the actors. Halfway in, it flips the script by revealing whose tale it really is for a nice surprise that better suits the characters and the overall narrative. There are even some entertaining supernatural elements thrown in.

For members of the diaspora (or anyone unfamiliar), the movie supplies an amiable look at life in the Philippines. There are so many relatable aspects from strict family to the influential role of Catholicism to a love for canned meats. These cultural facets can be another level to connect to in addition to the universal coming of age part. It isn’t common to see many Filipino stories in media stateside so it’s a real pleasure to find one, especially when it’s good.

There are some criticisms about Death of Nintendo. For instance, it could be a bit more focused. It tries to give more depth to the four characters by including subplots. However, some don’t always work with Kachi’s not particularly leading anywhere. Also, although it relies on nostalgia, some of the references feel forced in a Family Guy kind of way as opposed to organically introduced.

I would be remiss if I ignored the video game inaccuracies as well. The Legend of Zelda isn’t two players and the boss they showed wasn’t Gannon before they beat the game. A small quibble for an otherwise enjoyable film.

Death of Nintendo is a purely Filipino movie that showcases the culture and the people but garners widespread appeal through its relatable coming of age story. There is a charming cast who highlight the joy and heartbreak of going through your teenage years.

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