MMFF New Wave 2015: Director John Paul Su on ‘Toto’ and His “American Dream”

This is director John Paul Su’s statement on his upcoming film “Toto.”

Set in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, ‘TOTO’ is a comedy/drama about a young Filipino room service attendant whose determination to attain a U.S. visa precipitates an odyssey of universal import. Undeterred by his lack of education and scant prospects, Toto schemes relentlessly to achieve his goal. When his antics put the lives of his loved ones in danger, however, he is forced to question the extremity of his actions and to reevaluate the cost of fulfilling his dreams.

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In this film, all the characters have dreams and aspirations, be it about love, career, or simply friendship. But how far will one go to reach his dream?


As an immigrant myself, I am deeply attracted to Toto’s story for the way it speaks to the tension between integrity and compromise in the journeys of all outsiders. In moments of self-doubt, do you give up or do you soldier forward in pursuit of the dream? This is a question that, as a filmmaker in a new land where I was a complete unknown, I was constantly forced to ask myself time and time again.
Despite (or perhaps because of ) the huge divide between rich and poor in the Philippines, “dreaming big” is an integral part of the cultural DNA, and ‘TOTO’ is, on one hand, a satire of the veneration of wealth and celebrity in a society where opportunity and resources are still scarce.

But it is also an allegory of the immigrant experience in general, seizing upon the luxury hotel where Toto works— with its glamorous classic Hollywood facade — as a symbol of the American Dream, and the sordid infrastructure as a persistent reminder, to Toto and to us, of the often treacherous underworld upon which that facade depends.

‘TOTO’ aims to take its audience on a fun emotional roller coaster ride that, hopefully, will leave them inspired and moved. After all, there’s a Toto that resides in all of us.

“Toto” is an official entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave 2015 and will have screenings at SM Megamall, Glorietta and Robinsons Manila from December 17 to 24.

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