TYPE: Narrative Feature
When a young Filipino room service attendant's schemes to attain a U.S. visa put the lives of his loved ones in danger, he is forced to question the extremity of his actions and re-evaluate the cost of fulfilling his dreams.
ANTONIO “TOTO” ESTARES comes from Tacloban, Philippines, a place ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda. His mother has cancer. He works at a hotel in Manila, and tries every which way to get to the U.S. so he can support his family – which he’s been doing since his father died and left them penniless. His father had made it to Las Vegas to become a stage act and promised to petition his family, but he ended up a dishwasher who drank and gambled away everything.
The only thing Toto inherited from his father is the obsession of the dream, which he has forged into his own, and is intent on fulfilling it, because it was also once his mother’s hope. Toto makes one failed attempt after another to get a U.S. visa, risking friendships, his job, a lot of borrowed money, his dignity, and his heart. What he doesn’t realize is that, in a way, he’s already made it to America. The hotel is America. Its U.S. guests represent the good, the bad, and the ugly of America. After Toto meets the bad and gets ripped off, he loses hope. Yet it’s a good American that helps Toto, in a most unexpected way.
TOTO is all about the power of the dream. Although the failures of his father haunt him, it’s the power of his father’s dream that fuels him, not just for himself, but for those he loves, to help better their lives and achieve their own dreams. Some call it the American Dream, but for those beyond the U.S., it’s simply “the dream”. After all, there’s a TOTO that resides in all of us.
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 re-evaluate the cost of fulfilling his dreams.
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' takes 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.
John Paul Su - Director, Writer, Producer
JOHN PAUL "JP" SU is an award-winning U.S.-based filmmaker. Born and raised in the Philippines, JP has produced news and feature programming for major media outlets around the world, including BBC World, Brazil's Globo Network, Norway's NRK Hortaland and the Philippines' ABS-CBN.
JP is a Master of Fine Arts graduate at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Asia. His short documentary, The Caregiver, has been selected in various film festivals including DOC NYC and the American Documentary Film Festival, and won a 2012 CINE Golden Eagle Award.
The Directors Guild of America recently named him Best Asian-American Filmmaker for his short fiction narrative "Pagpag." The short film continues to win more accolades around the world, including a Silver World Medal at the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards and a Platinum Remi at Worldfest Houston. "Smell A Memory", his first directorial project with ad agency JWT Singapore was a finalist in the 2013 Cannes Lions Awards and won the Silver AdStar award.
The Philippine Government also bestowed JP the Harvest of Honor Award (Ani ng Dangal) and named him one of the Outstanding Filipino Artists in the field of Cinema for 2013.
JP is currently one of the twelve directors selected to participate in the 2014-2016 Disney/ABC-DGA Directing Program.
“TOTO” is his first feature-length film.
Donald Martin - Writer, Producer
DONALD MARTIN is a screenwriter and producer based in LA. In 2011, he was honored by POWER UP in Hollywood as one of its “ten amazing men in show business”, for his body of work and philanthropy. In 2010, he received The Margaret Collier Lifetime Achievement Award at the Gemini Awards (Canada’s Emmy) for his body of work. In 2009, he was nominated for a Gemini for writing the CBC move “Celine”, the life story of Celine Dion. In 2001, he was the recipient of the inaugural Gemini Humanitarian Award. In 2002, he received Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Medal. In 1996, he was nominated for the Genie Award (Canada’s Oscar) for Best Original Screenplay and a Writer’s Guild Award for his screenplay “Never Too Late”, starring Olympia Dukakis.
“Dim Sum Funeral” (HBO Films), which Donald wrote and for which he was an executive producer, has played at twelve international festivals and won several awards, including two Golden Angel Awards at the 2009 Chinese American Film Festival. The film had its world premiere at the 2008 Busan International Film Festival.
Donald has been commissioned to write screenplays for Miramax, The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, Alliance-Atlantis Entertainment, Wes Craven Films, and Rigel Entertainment.
His film “Kill The Sparrows” (starring Kate Hudson) shoots in Sept 2015. His film “Masterpiece” (Escape Artists, Sony) has Mila Kunis and Al Pacino attached to star. Escape Artists has also optioned Donald’s script “The Babe”. Donald has just written the WW2 feature “Crescendo” for producer Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of “The Terminator” franchise and “The Walking Dead”.
Currently, Donald is writing the WW2 feature “Defiant Requiem”.
Rey Cuerdo - Producer
Rey is a seasoned producer and Hollywood executive for the past 20 years.
He was the executive producer of The Philippines’ box office smash hit horror-comedy “Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings” (2011), Rey took it on a successful international film festival run in 2012, and capped it with U.S. domestic and worldwide distribution deals, as well as putting an English language film remake in development entitled “Zombadings!” written by Donald Martin. In 2009, he executive produced the HBO comedy-drama “Dim Sum Funeral”, starring Bai Ling, Talia Shire and Russell Wong. Rey produced the international award-winning Filipino film “Small Voices” in 2002. It won Best Film in all of The Philippines’ film industry awards, and was selected as its country’s official entry to the Oscars and Golden Globe Awards. It also became the first Filipino film to be distributed by a major Hollywood studio (Warner Bros.), and the first Philippine entry to be acquired and released in the U.S. and Canada.
Rey is also producing other feature film projects, including: a biopic entitled “The Babe” with producer Todd Black (“Hope Springs”, “The Pursuit of Happyness”) at Escape Artists; an action-thriller entitled “The Collector” with producer Larry Mark (“Dreamgirls”, “Last Vegas”) at Laurence Mark Productions, and a horror/psychological thriller entitled “The Wanting” with Sid Ganis (“Akeelah and the Bee”, “Mr. Deeds”) at Out of the Blue Entertainment.
Clarissa Delos Reyes - Director of Photography
CLARISSA DELOS REYES is a director and cinematographer born in Manila, Philippines. She moved to New York City in 2000 and spent several years working in various capacities in independent film production before her acceptance into NYU's Tisch School of the Arts graduate film program.
She is the recipient of the Sara Driver Production Award, the New York Women in Film and Television Production Grant, the Maurice Kanbar Scholarship, the prestigious Tisch Graduate Assistantship for Cinematography, and an Honorable Mention at the Director's Guild of America Student Awards East Coast Division. She was selected to be a part of the sixth edition of the Berlinale Talent Campus in Berlin, Germany, and was most recently awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the San Diego Asian Film Festival for her short film “Johnny Loves Dolores”.
As a director of photography, she has shot numerous narrative short films, documentaries, and industrials in the United States and Asia. She also worked as a camera operator for Oscar-nominated American independent filmmaker John Sayles' feature film “Amigo”. Her latest works include Jose Antonio Vargas’ feature documentary “Documented”, and Michael Collins’ “Almost Sunrise”.
Shiho Miyazawa - Production Sound Recordist
Shiho Miyazawa is a Japanese filmmaker, dancer, and choreographer.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, she started her creative training as a classical ballet dancer at the age of three at the prestigious Matsuyama Ballet School in Tokyo. Her interest in filmmaking began at the age of 18 when her interest in choreography led her to make short dance films. Her interest in both dance and film came together when she was selected to be a part of the cast of Rob Marshall's "Memoirs of a Geisha." Since then, she has made it a point to explore various aspects of the craft, trying her hand in special effects make-up and camera assisting before finding her calling as a Production Sound Mixer, working on numerous projects with collaborators such as Spike Lee, Nick Gaglia, James Franco, Sean Stone, Clarissa Delos Reyes, and John Paul Su.
Shiho holds a BFA with an honor in Film and Television from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and a recipient of Baryshnikov Arts Fellowship.
Manet Dayrit - Editor
Manet is a multi-award winning editor of full-length feature films. Her credits include such Filipino classics as “Jose Rizal”, “Magnifico”, “Ligaya”, and “Where I Am King”, to name a few. She is currently a Board Member of the Movie & Television Review & Classification Board in the Philippines.
Jessie Bueno - Production Designer
Albert Michael Idioma - Sound Designer/Editor
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