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The Bet Collector

Gina Pareño runs the numbers in The Bet Collector
Global Film Initiative

Hugely popular, lucrative, and totally illegal in the Philippines, the numbers game of jueteng (pronounced "hwe-teng") has long been a crutch for both poor and rich; in 2000, Philippine president Joseph Estrada was impeached for receiving jueteng payoffs, and a similar scandal broke out only a couple years ago under the current president. Jeffrey Jeturian brings this cultural dependency on the lottery to light in his jittery, well-intentioned DIY drama, which headlines the Global Film Initiative's fifth "Global Lens" exhibition at MOMA—a means to promote international cinema from regions with underdeveloped filmmaking communities. Middle-aged, gossipy Manila store owner Amelita (Gina Pareño) tries to hold her head high while barely scraping by with her paltry income as a kubrador ("bet collector") and no help at all from her couch-potato hubby. Her days are spent avoiding police harassment and coercing wagers out of those worse off than herself. While Jeturian tends to rub our noses in the poverty blues by over-accentuating claustrophobic corridors and holding each close-up too long, Pareño commands with breezy charisma and empathy. More ethnologically remarkable than particularly well-made, the mostly washed-out film's highlight is a frenetic opening rooftop chase that plays like a mumblecore remake of The Bourne Ultimatum until the mood droops again.


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