International Festival Premiere | In Competition


Guest star:
Samantha LEE, director
Nathalia H. JADAONE, screenwriter
Angelica Grace M. TOMAS, producer


Winner of the Audience Award at the 2023 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Rookie is a sapphic coming-of-age story set in the competitive world of high school volleyball. It’s no secret that queers people hold court in this sport, so much so that it has been called a “safe space” for the LGBTQ+ community. Rookie’s milieu emerges from the confusing world of middle adolescence, where a tomboyish teen like Ace (Pat Tingjuy in a breakout role) can feel both small and exposed at the same time.

Ace usually likes basketball; she feels at home on the court, but when she transfers to an all-girls Catholic school, she discovers that there’s no basketball team. Instead, she is thrust into the world of volleyball when the coach urges her to try out. Romance breaks through in a villains-to-lovers trope involving the team’s captain (Aya Fernandez), who first sees Ace as a threat but develops something deeper when they go through volleyball camp together.

The two have their issues bubbling from under the competitive facade. Ace is coming to terms with her sexuality in a new environment, while Jana is being pressured by her dad to secure a volleyball scholarship from a top university. While contending with these issues, Ace discovers that the team’s physical therapist has been sexually harassing her teammates. Do they report this to the authorities or take the matter into their own hands? Rookie is Lee’s follow-up to the award-winning Billie and Emma, which, in some ways, treads the same coming-of-age territory. But Rookie is more specific, tackling a sensitive issue not usually discussed in the open. Volleyball remains a top-drawing sport in the Philippines, though not as big as basketball. The sport has its icons (one of which appears in the movie), and the softness of the queer lens which Lee uses to hone in on gender and women’s issues makes for a sobering but still romantic watch. Tingjuy is a discovery, and to witness queer love in bloom in such bright colors “out in the open, in broad daylight,” as Lee put it, is a welcome depiction of sapphic love. Best seen in a theater full of romantics.

Don Jaucian
Film director: Samantha LEE
Year: 2023
Running time: 95'
Country: The Philippines
30/04 - 11:05 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
30-04-2024 11:05 30-04-2024 12:40Europe/Rome Rookie Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine
Online in Italy until the end of the Festival