Diane Paragas, H.P. Mendoza win Cinematografo filmmaking grant
The Cinematografo Originals Contest unveiled the two filmmakers and their works which topped the search that started in January.
They are “Yellow Rose” by Diane Paragas, a story about a 15-year-old Filipino girl who dreams of being a country music star despite the ridicule of everyone around her; and “Bitter Melon” by H.P. Mendoza, a dark story about how a Filipino American family spends its Christmas holiday conspiring to kill the black sheep of the family.
The new film competition launched this year by ABS-CBN International provides seed grants for full-length features, either documentary or narrative.
Paragas is an award-winning documentary film director and commercial director. Her works have appeared on SHOWTIME, BET, Discovery, MTV, Bravo and PBS. Paragas started her career in advertising then went on to work at MTV and for Discovery Asia. She is also the founder and owner of New York City-based Civilian Studios. She has directed award-winning commercials for Fortune 500 companies. In 2012, she produced and directed the feature documentary, “Brooklyn Boheme,” which premiered in February on SHOWTIME networks. The documentary, which was co-directed and co-produced with Nelson George, celebrates the post-Civil Rights artistic movement of Fort Greene Brooklyn and features Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Rosie Perez and Saul Williams, to name a few.
In “Yellow Rose,” 15-year-old Rose Garcia aspires to become a country music star until her mother is picked up by the immigration authorities.
In her Director’s Statement, Paragas writes, “I am a Filipina-American like Rose. When I was 3 years old, my family fled Manila and martial law and ended up in Lubbock, Texas as it was the only place that would take us. I grew up in a fairly racist environment and by the time I was a teenager my only refuge was music. So I formed a punk rock band. An actor friend of mine suggested I write a script about my upbringing, but when I first conceived of the script I thought that it would be more compelling if the lead character loved everything about Texas including and most importantly the music. It would be the ultimate unrequited love: to love a place so much that doesn’t love you back. And with the crackdown of immigration in her town, Rose’s very citizenship is questioned as well.”
Paragas continues that “although we are America’s second largest Asian population, there has been no major film made about the Filipino American experience.”
Mendoza is a San Francisco-based filmmaker most known for his work as writer-actor-composer for “Colma: The Musical” (2006) and director-writer for his follow-up queer musical film, “Fruit Fly” (2009). After writing and performing music for David Lewis’s “Longhorns” (2011) and writing Richard Wong’s sex comedy, “Yes, We’re Open” (2012), Mendoza returned to writing-directing via the psychological horror film, “I Am A Ghost” (2014). In 2016, the music, movies and 3D digital art of Mendoza were celebrated at the San Francisco Art Musuem as part of “Takeover” — Mendoza’s own “indoor block party”. He recently finished work on “Next Week”, a multimedia experience based on his time with IDEO.org and JPMorgan Chase focusing on poverty alleviation and low-income Americans.
Cinematografo was made open to all U.S. citizens and/or U.S. permanent residents of Filipino descent, 18 years or older. The contest awards a $100,000 production grant. This is a path to have stories realized on the big screen. The winning films will highlight the Cinematografo International Film Festival to be held this November in San Francisco.
“We congratulate H.P., Diane and also everyone who made the contest possible. We are committed to providing a platform for a new generation of U.S.-based Filipino or Filipino American filmmakers to bring their uniquely Filipino films to the world stage,” said Film Festival Executive Director John-D Lazatin, also the Global Head of Theatricals of ABS-CBN International.