Movie Review: Kita Kita (Alessandra de Rossi; Empoy Marquez)

Kita Kita
poster from

A beautiful tour guide goes blind and her funny-looking neighbor offers to be her sighted guide, as they tour of some of Japan’s most lovely locations. A romantic comedy with a twist. Languages are Japanese, Tagalog, and English, with English subtitles.

My Review

Kita Kita is a little like “Beauty and the Beast”. Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) is a natural beauty and Tonyo (Empoy Marquez) looks as funny as his jokes. (The people behind me in the cinema laughed at every close-up that Tonyo got.) If Lea had not become temporarily blind, Tonyo would never have been able to get a date with her. Even when she could see, she could barely see him in her life. But after he does get her attention, he is truly kind to her — and she soon warms up to him. I found the blossoming of their friendship very sweet. And I wondered how their relationship would change after she regained her sight.

Unfortunately, the ending was not very satisfying. I’ve been discussing Kita Kita with others who have seen it, to put my finger exactly on why this is. Two friends who agree with me have also cited a critical Esquire Philippines article about Tonyo’s character. (Link with spoilers) But for me, the problem is with Lea’s character. A blind tour guide is just another kind of unreliable narrator.

Ironically, the story is clearer and smoother in the middle of the movie, when Lea can’t see, than at the beginning and the end, when she can. The confusing moment at the beginning, when we realize she has been “telling” us a story that didn’t actually happen, colors the entire revelation at the end. It makes the main story with Tonyo feel like one big dream.

Before Lea regained her sight, I imagined a possible ending for her and Tonyo. I think it honors their love story and explores the themes of sight and blindness better than the actual ending. If you’ve seen Kita Kita, I’ll tell you all about it in the comments!

Language Learning with Kita Kita

Three languages work together in this movie: Tagalog, English, and Japanese! (There are also a few lines of Ilonggo, another Filipino language, but it does not play a major role.)

Try to say the title with me now. The first “Kita” rhymes with the name “Rita.” It means “to see.” The second “Kita” sounds a little like “Qatar.” It is a pronoun that means the subject “I” and the object “you” at the same time. So the title means: “I see you.”

(There is a third “kita” in Tagalog, which means “to earn.” It sounds exactly like the first “Kita” of the title. But it has nothing to do with the movie.)

I think Kita Kita is a good movie for intermediate to advanced Tagalog learners — those who can tell when subtitles are not perfectly accurate. For instance, when Lea invites Tonyo to sit in one of her chairs, his Tagalog reply means, “My back was starting to hurt [on this stool],” but the subtitle reads, “I would love to sit in a proper chair.”

Kita Kita can also help beginners to get used to Tagalog sounds, rhythms, and most importantly, humor.

Cultural Learning with Kita Kita

When the main characters are Filipinos who live in Japan, you will not see much Filipino culture. The theme of two countrymen who become friends in a foreign land is universal anyway. Tonyo cooks some Filipino dishes for Lea, but he might as well be bringing her bento boxes. (The translation of “adobo” as “spicy pork” in the subtitles also continues to bother me.)

The main setting is beautiful Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. The bright cinematography made me wish that Kita Kita had a Philippine setting. We have lovely locations here, too! But Lea’s isolation, which makes her so reliant on Tonyo, is essential to the story. And there’s no way she would have been so alone if she lived in the Philippines.

In short, Kita Kita isn’t the best movie to see if you want to immerse yourself in Filipino culture. On the other hand, it is already one of the most popular local movies of 2017. It may not show much Filipino culture, but it is Filipino culture . . . in a bento box.

Have you seen Kita Kita?

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