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Teenage girl meets her idol in a very awkward and compromising situation, in emotionally eviscerating drama from the Philippines - live from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


This is a movie bursting with sensitivity and authenticity. The strong hand of a female director combined with the astounding performance of a young actress and the talent of a established male celebrity have created one of the most palpably humanistic films I have seen this year. And this isn’t just a movie with a lot of psychological death. It’s also a slap in the face of celebrity culture and the patriarchy attached to it.

The story is very simple. Jane (Charlie Dizon) is a 16-year-old high school student obsessed with celebrity actor Paulo Avelino (played my real-life celebrity Paulo Avelino himself). She knows everything about Paulo’s career, even details which he cannot remember himself. One day she jumps in the back of his pickup truck and ends up in his residence. She unwittingly witnesses him drink, inhale cocaine and have sex with a married fan with whom he has an affair and even a child. Paulo allows Jane to sleep in the his guest bedroom, and the next day they strike up a friendship.

Paulo and Jane reveal their most dark and painful secrets to each other during a conversation in the car. Jane’s mother has a dysfunctional and abusive relationship with a married man. Paulo didn’t see his dying mother because of a film shoot. They bond. A very inexperienced and yet assertive Jane drinks, smokes and even tries a spliff for the very first time. The physical reactions are inevitable: she is soon drunk and throwing up. Despite the intoxication, her unflinching admiration for Paulo remains intact. She claims that he’s “even cuter in real life” and tries to find out whether “he’s really a good kisser”. Will Paulo eventually surrender to her advances? Should they take this strange friendship to the next level?

The 36-year-old female director opted for a simple and straightforward cinematography. The images are naturally dark, except for Jane’s dream sequences (which are bright and colourful). The bodies are depicted in their splendid imperfections. Jane is petite, her breasts still growing. Paulo isn’t as fit as his fans would expect. But he does have a very large penis (well, I’m fairly confident that the filmmaker opted for a prosthetic member).

Dizon, who was selected from a pool of 600 auditioning girl, delivers a breathtaking performance. Her eyes dazzling with excitement, her lips trembling with fear, her face contorted with anguish. She conveys a very broad spectrum of solid emotions: from an orgasmic look hiding in the back of the car to horror upon being uncovered, or even glistening tears of joy when her dream becomes true. Tears have a very strong significance: Jane repeatedly praises Paulo’s ability to cry on cue, but it’s ultimately it’s her very own tears that will move film viewers.

Paulo Avelino also deserves credit for playing such a complex version of himself, and for allowing his immaculate reputation to be tarnished. His character is multilayered and unpredictable. If the real Paulo is indeed like his character, he’s probably a lot of fun. Great lovely company for a beer. But not someone with whom you’d want to share your bed .

It may come as a surprise to viewers that Jane isn’t the vulnerable teen she seems to me. She is very capable of taking matters into her own hands. You will find out what I mean in the final 20 minutes of this 90-minute film, when the story acquires an entirely different dimension. Be prepared for a delectable twist.

Fan Girl has just premiered at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. It’s part of the event’s competition, and a very strong contender for the top prizes, particularly the Best Actress Award.

By Victor Fraga - 21-11-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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