Reviewed by: Victoria Stewart
When a film engages a reader and offers stories of hope, courage, and heroism then you must applaud the filmmaker. And that is what I did after watching Quezon’s Game. I didn’t know anything about the Philippines in regards to World War II or President Manuel L. Quezon. So it was riveting to learn so much history about a country I have always wanted to visit.
In his directorial debut filmmaker, Matthew Rosen takes you on a journey of discovery at times disturbing to watch but war and suffering are unfortunately the horrible things that human beings perpetrate on one another since the beginning of time. However, when we see stories of men and women like Quezon who stand up for what is right against all odds there might be hope still for all mankind.
President Quezon faced many obstacles in his quest to help, from enemies wanting to bring him down, a struggling local economy and strained relations with the United States. This still did not make him waiver in the moral obligation he felt to help those who were being systemically targeted and killed; when other world powers turned a blind eye to the horrors, one man stood up and made a difference.
Although Quezon’s intent to rescue 10,000 Jews was abruptly curtailed by the Dec. 8, 1941 invasion and three-year occupation of his country by the Japanese, he, his wife, Aurora (Rachel Alejandro), and daughter, Baby (Kate Alejandrino), succeeded against all odds to welcome more than 1,200 refugees, initially housing them on his own family’s property, Marikina estate. Yet in his final days in 1944, as president in U.S. exile, he regretfully turned to Aurora and asked, “Could I have done more?”
Matthew Rosen (also serving as cinematographer) has directed television, music videos and more than 700 commercials over 25 years, winning more than 50 international awards. Rosen—a British national residing in the Philippines since 1986—and his Filipino wife, Lorena “Lori” Rosen, who co-produced the film, heard the little-known story of the film from members of the Jewish Association of the Philippines in 2009 and instantly realized they needed to retell this extraordinary and moving story on the big screen
Comments the director, “I am a Jew who grew up in England and have experienced bigotry, but after 37 years in the Philippines, to this day, I have never come across prejudice, dislike or distrust because I am White or Jewish. I’m pinoy at heart and this was truly a passion project for me. The story behind Quezon’s Game remains a reflection of the Filipino people today, a warm and welcoming culture.
“In a time of war, when the rest of the world was in despair and apathetic,” Rosen continues, “the Filipino people—who were suffering their own hardships—shed a light on justice and morality to lead others. Quezon fought a lonely battle for what was right up until his untimely death. The message of this amazing story, which was largely forgotten, is more important than ever to in today’s growing climate of intolerance—and my wife, Lori, and I wanted to tell it. It’s my ‘thank you’ to the Philippines.”
Lasting Legacy …
As a result of the moral courage displayed by the leader of the Philippines and his people, regardless of the consequences, Israel long ago instituted an open-door policy with the country, which permits visa-free visitation by Filipino tourists to this day—and, in 2009, erected an “Open Door” monument in Tel Aviv in commemoration of this act of humanity. Today, the Jewish diaspora in the Philippines remains a vibrant and welcoming community, with the descendants of refugees rescued by Quezon numbering around 8,000, according to a 2017 estimate by the Israeli Embassy.
Quezon’s Game is a Star Cinema/ABS-CBN Film Productions production in association with iWant and Kinetek
The film was released on the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz (Jan. 27)
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