Silver screen inspiration

Who doesn’t like to be inspired?

People can inspire us. So can words. A great picture can make our spirits soar. The ocean, a sunset, singing birds each morning or the spout of a whale in the afternoon can make us feel better, more sure of ourselves and who we are and the path we’re on.

Then, there are movies. The great ones, and sometimes even the not-so-great ones, can leave us believing in ourselves, believing we can do more, to realize that just maybe we are blessed.

With that in mind, the staff at The Garden Island offers up movies that have inspired them, and hopes that perhaps one day when you’re in need of motivation, encouragement or faith in yourself, these flicks might surprise you.

The Debut (2000)

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are Filipinos everywhere — just not on TV or the silver screen.

The only Filipino-based entertainment I’ve seen growing up were the, at times, overly-theatric TV dramas my mother would watch on The Filipino Channel or the bootleg movies her family from P.I. would mail to us.

But those never appealed to me. It wasn’t because of the language barrier. I’ll admit I’m not fluent in Tagalog — thank goodness for subtitles. It was because what was depicted in those forms of media didn’t reflect how I grew up.

Growing up as a first-generation Filipino-American, I’ve never seen anything that embodied what it was like to live in a middle ground.

Everything I’ve seen was either entirely Filipino or totally American — that was until I was in eighth grade and everyone I knew was raving about a new independent film that made its way to a theater in my hometown.

The Debut is about a high school senior about to graduate with goals of studying at a prestigious art school. His immigrant father, forcefully though for his reasons lovingly, urges him to pursue a career as a doctor.

His Filipino roots and his predominantly-White American upbringing in Southern California come to clash on the night of his sister’s debutante ball, a traditional coming-of-age celebration on a young woman’s 18th birthday.

The film, which won the Audience Award for Best Feature in the 2000 Hawaii International Film Festival, casted Dante Basco as the lead role of Ben Mercado.

Some of you may remember him as Rufio, leader of the Lost Boys, in “Hook,” which starred the late, great Robin Williams as the adult Peter Pan. Some of you younger folks may know him as the voice of Prince Zuko in the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Though he’s both to me, Basco will first-and-foremost be Ben Mercado — the Fil-Am teenager who I saw on the movie screen and related to most out of everything I’ve seen in the mainstream media at the time.

Myself, as well as many others in the Fil-Am community, felt great pride to see a film that featured Filipino actors and actresses.

In some ways, the film has influenced how I’ve lived. I could have pursued to be a doctor, a lawyer, or some other profession that was sensible but in no way interested me. Instead, I discovered writing and I’ve stuck with it, just like how Ben chased his dreams of being an artist.

Also, the film showed me that I didn’t have to be one or the other. I didn’t have to be entirely Filipino or totally American.

Both cultures have forged my identity, and The Debut perfectly represented that concept.

— Nick Celario

McFarland, USA

What’s not to like about this just-released movie based on a true story? A football coach with anger issues finds the only job he can land as a teacher at McFarland High School in McFarland, California. The dreary town doesn’t have much going for it and the future for the kids, “pickers” who work the fields, is dismal. But wait. This new teacher, Mr. White, notices some of these students run as fast as he drives and starts a cross country program. They rise from raggedly old shoes to become a running powerhouse.

The running scenes aren’t brilliant or overly emotional, but the final state championship meet, when the team’s usually slowest runner sprints to the finish and passes others in the final 100 meters, will leave you smiling. Better is how lives were changed because one man saw potential in kids and, despite overwhelming odds and many doubters, convinced them they could not just compete, but win. He convinced them to believe in themselves. And I’ll bet hundreds of people, including this runner, went out and began searching for a job as a cross country running coach. And Mr. White, by the way, despite an offer to go elsewhere and make more money, stays in McFarland with his family and his runners win more state titles. He still lives there today.

— Bill Buley

“In Search of Beethoven”

(2009, Seventh Art Productions) is a feature length documentary that takes the most flattering look at the contributions of history’s greatest composer through the eyes of 10 contemporary conductors, composers and musicians.

Beethoven’s life and times, the moments that inspired his music, and the progression of his symphonies into masterpieces all serve to showcase a visionary who was largely misunderstood in his day.

The line that resonates with me from the film came from conductor Roger Norrington, who says, “Mozart wrote for next Sunday; Beethoven wrote for eternity.”

— Tom LaVenture

8 Mile (2002)

It’s “The Karate Kid,” but for rappers. The movie seems corny now, but at the time it seemed to blasting at a million miles an hour. The anger behind the main character, Jimmy Smith Jr., played by menacing rapper Eminem, is fascinating. The inspiring part is how he works through his anger as he focuses on one of the only things he likes in life, putting harsh words to beats in the Detroit underground music scene. It’s a rags-to-riches tale of sorts, but unlike every other triumph tale, you don’t see Smith make it – rather you see a week in the life where you see him start to figure out the path he wants to take.

— Tom Hasslinger

The Theory of Everything

The movie that inspires me the most is “The Theory of Everything,” which tells the story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and how he contracted the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, which robs the body of its mobility and speech. The reason this movie inspires me is because when some people come down with an injury or disease that robs them of an ability they believe it robs of their of their life.

However, Stephen Hawking was a man who never let his disease prevent him from becoming the amazing scientist the world knows him to be. I believe that if a man like Hawking never gave up on life, then neither should anyone because, as Hawking once said, “where there is life, there is hope.”

— Averie Soto

The Karate Kid, (2010)

“The Karate Kid” is a great movie that helps keep you motivated.

The movie reminds you that in life you will have battles, and at times you will feel down and sometimes you just need a push.

Twelve-year-old Dre Parker moves to China with his mother and with no friends, he becomes picked on and bullied.

Dre feels down and frustrated that he can’t do anything to stop these kids. Dre slowly grows a relationship with Mr. Han, who teaches him the master of karate and kung fu. Mr. Han teaches Dre to be stronger, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.

Through daily trainings Dre becomes strong, and stands up to the bullies. He feels more powerful than ever and he feels the strength and power to stand up to anyone who gets in his way.

In life you need to learn to stand up for yourself. You need to be able to feel motivation and remember that with practice and training anything is possible.

You may need a push, several pushes, but eventually you will be surprised by what you have accomplished.

You will feel proud and feel that you can accomplish anything, if you put your mind and heart in it.

Don’t give up, keep pushing.

— Chloe Marchant

Shawshank Redemption

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Andy Dufrense was absolutely right. The time is now. You only get one chance and you better make it count.

Of all the movies I’ve ever watched, The Shawshank Redemption remains at the top of my list.

For those who haven’t seen it, Shawshank follows the life of Andy, a successful banker played by Tim Robbins, after he is convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife and her lover.

In prison, Andy befriends “Red,” a fellow prisoner played by Morgan Freeman, and ultimately finds solace and redemption.

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

— Chris D’Angelo


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