Los Angeles Times
Thanks to Dan for this information!

This (long!) article from the L.A. Times talks about three 
films, including briefly, AMERICAN ADOBO.

Thursday, November 29, 2001
Immigrant Characters Rare, but Themes Are Universal

'ABCD,' about an East Indian American family, is one of 
several ethnic films hoping for a wider appeal.

By JON MATSUMOTO, Special to The Times

     When Krutin Patel co-wrote the script to his film "ABCD" 
in 1993, the most prominent East Indian in American pop 
culture was probably Apu from the television series "The 
Simpsons." Eight years later, that animated convenience 
store clerk is still the most recognizably East Indian 
character in American television and film. 
     The paucity of East Indian American representation in the 
popular arts in this country is a primary reason why Patel 
feels so passionately about his independently made drama, 
which captures the intriguing dynamics of an East Indian 
American family. 
     "ABCD," which opens Friday at selected theaters, is one 
of a handful of new films involving rarely seen immigrant 
American characters and scenarios. "The Debut," which is 
currently in theaters, and "American Adobo," which is slated 
to open in Los Angeles on Jan. 23, are both small movies 
reflecting Philippine American life. 
     A coming-of-age film about a Philippine American 
teenager, "The Debut" opened in Los Angeles in early 
October and has grossed more than $1 million. Home to 
large Philippine American populations, the Los Angeles and 
San Francisco areas have accounted for 90% of the film's 
box-office success, according to its distributor, 5 Card 
     All three of these films deal in some way with ethnic 
minority immigrants and their children trying to reconcile 
traditional cultural values with very different American 
     In "ABCD," two grown children react differently to the 
expectations of their loving but very traditional Indian-born 
mother (Madhur Jaffrey). Older brother Raj (Faran Tahir) 
tries to conform to her wishes. He has a very respectable 
job as a Manhattan accountant and is engaged to a 
traditional Indian woman he does not entirely love. His 
younger sister Nina (Sheetal Sheth) rebels against 
conservative Indian mores by dating non-Indian men and by 
embracing a sexually promiscuous lifestyle. 
     Having emigrated from India to the U.S. at age 8, Patel is 
familiar with the difficulty of trying to straddle the line 
between two cultures. Like many men with Indian immigrant 
parents, he felt the pressure to land a white-collar job. To 
appease his parents' concerns about his desire to enter the 
uncertain field of filmmaking, he majored in both film and 
finance at New York University. While he hopes to transition 
into filmmaking full time, Patel currently works in the 
marketing department at the Food Network in New York. 
     Ironically, previous screenings of the film have indicated 
that "ABCD" is unlikely to be fully embraced by the Indian 
American community, particularly by that segment which 
espouses conservative cultural values. 
     "The strongest reaction to the film has come, believe it or 
not, from non-Indian Americans," remarks Patel, who also 
directed and co-produced "ABCD." "There are those in the 
Indian American community who don't want to see its dirty 
laundry hung in public. The portrayal of characters like Nina 
[makes them uncomfortable]. They want to keep their heads 
in the sand. In the Indian community the film will raise a few 
eyebrows. That's a good thing because there will be debate 
about it. We tend to be a community that doesn't 
communicate in regard to some of these harder issues." 
     Nina is the film's most complex character. She rebels 
against the sexual conservatism of her ethnic culture. Yet 
her contrary ways also keep her from finding the emotional 
intimacy in her romantic relationships that will lead to 
happiness. When she finds herself falling in love with an 
Indian man she reluctantly meets on a date arranged by her 
mother, she is disinclined to commit to the relationship. 
     Patel says the Nina character has sparked much debate 
during question-and-answer sessions following screenings 
of the film. Some Indian Americans have found her to be an 
inaccurate representation of their people. Others have found 
her to be very real. 
     Patel recalls, "One of my memories of showing this at a 
film festival was a British Indian girl telling me, 'That's my life 
up there on screen.' I was like, 'Wow, thank you.' Nina really 
translated to her experience." 
     "ABCD," whose relatively polished look belies its modest 
$200,000 budget, couldn't have been made without the 
financial help of Patel's friends and relatives. 
     "After my parents came to America, they helped other 
Indian immigrants who subsequently came to this country," 
explains Patel, who spent about five years raising money to 
make his film. "Some 30 years later I needed financial 
backing and they turned around and gave me that help." 
Only a few of the Indian American investors asked to read 
the script. 
     Moviegoing is hugely popular in India. But Patel believes 
there would be little interest there in a serious-minded film 
about an Indian American family. Bollywood, as the Indian 
film industry is known, generally produces escapist 
     Conversely, "American Adobo" was made partly with the 
Filipino audience in mind. It was funded largely by a major 
production company in the Philippines. Plus, the director 
and a number of the actors are stars in that country. The film 
will play in both the U.S. and the Philippines. 
     "American Adobo" was written and produced by Vincent 
R. Nebrida, who moved from the Philippines to America in 
1980 as a young adult. "The Big Chill"-type ensemble 
comedy-drama is about a group of thirty- and fortysomething 
Philippine Americans living in New York. 
     Nebrida admits that his film's overseas investors fear it 
may be too "sophisticated" to be a mass-market film in the 
Philippines. He describes "American Adobo" as a 
sometimes painfully authentic look into his culture's psyche. 
     "Some Filipinos who have seen the film have told me that 
what some of the characters says is pretty bold," says 
Nebrida. "They are things we say amongst ourselves, but 
you don't hear them in a movie. For example, there is a line 
where a character says, 'We Filipinos are so complacent 
and fatalistic.' That's a little painful, but I camouflage it in 
     The hope is that films like "ABCD" and "American Adobo" 
will find audiences among independent film lovers and in 
specific minority communities in the increasingly multiethnic 
U.S. Patel says there are sizable Indian populations in most 
major American cities. "ABCD" is slated to open in 15 to 20 
markets in North America. 
     Non-Indian audiences may not fully understand a few of 
the cultural subtleties of the film and some viewers may not 
empathize with Raj's possible encounter with workplace 
discrimination. But Patel feels he has fashioned a movie 
that has mainstream allure. 
     "I always wanted to make sure that the movie appealed 
beyond Indian people," Patel insists. "As we started 
showing it at festivals so many people would say to me, 'I'm 
not Indian, but so much of this film I can relate to my own 
family.' That's when I realized that the film really has a 
universal appeal. My writing and directing style is going for a 
certain realism. If you make characters that are human and 
real they will transcend ethnic lines." 

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times