Pepe, a 68-year-old impersonator of a Filipino rock legend, lives alone on the borders of reality, imagination and mysticism. One day, he is finally given the chance to open for the rock legend’s concert but he must do something neither of them has done before – write a love song.
Filipino rock legend Joey “Pepe Smith” plays the washed-up musician angling for a comeback in Malaysian director Bradley Liew's debut feature film, SINGING IN GRAVEYARDS, which just had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival Critics Week. In a very meta-narrative, the real life Pepe is playing essentially himself in the film. Beyond the inside-jokes, especially if you are familiar with the Filipino rock and indie film scenes, Liew has crafted a visually poised and emotionally resonant character study of an over-the-hill artist who is a shell of his former self. He reveres his lost past, while barely living his harsher present. Reminiscent of Jeff Bridges’ character in CRAZY HEART, Smith is wandering aimlessly in life, detached from his family, until one day, he gets an opportunity at a small redemption and one last moment in the limelight, even if it means having to “sell out.”
Pepe Smith turns in an amazing performance as a man who’s fallen really hard in life, and it’s amazing to see him in such a grizzled, emaciated role, considering that he is Filipino rock royalty in real life (think Mick Jagger or Johnny Hallyday).
This film is nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Narrative Feature.