2 films are generating major buzz on FilAm History Month

Eva Noblezada in ‘Yellow Rose;’ Isabel Sandoval stars in ‘Lingua Franca’ which she wrote, directed, and produced.

‘Yellow Rose’

After doing the festival route last year — including the huge XXII Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF) in Mexico where it was part of the Spotlight on the 100 Years of Philippine Cinema –”Yellow Rose,” the immigration drama with an unforgettable soundtrack, came to the big screens on October 9.  The film won in 2019 the Special Jury Award-Best Narrative Feature at the Asian American International Film Festival in New York City and the Grand Jury Prize-Best Narrative Feature and Best Breakout Performance for Eva Noblezada at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

The narrative feature debut of Diane Paragas stars Eva Noblezada (Hadestown, Miss Saigon) in her feature film debut, Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (Once on this Island, Miss Saigon), Princess Punzalan (Mula sa Puso), Dale Watson (Friday Night Lights), Gustavo Gomez (The Walking Dead), Libby Villari (Boyhood) and Liam Booth (Ghosts Never Sleep).

The film is a timely story about a Filipina teen from a small Texas town who fights to pursue her dreams as a country music performer while facing the threat of deportation.  An ABS-CBN Cinematografo 2017 seed grant selection, it became the first Filipino and Filipino American film to be acquired by Sony Pictures for theatrical release in the U.S.

Paragas produced, directed and wrote ‘Yellow Rose’ with Annie Howell and Celena Cipriaso based on a story by Paragas and Andy Bienen. Also producing are Cecilia R. Mejia, Rey Cuerdo and Orian Williams.  Executive Producers are Olivia De Jesus and Karen Elizaga. 

‘Lingua Franca’ 

One of recent arrivals is “Lingua Franca”  which made history last year at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival as the first film directed, written, edited and produced by and starring an openly trans woman of color, Isabel Sandoval.  The film won Best Picture in 2019 at the 25th Festival Cheries Cheris in Paris, France, Best Performance for Sandoval at the 30th Young Critics Circle Film Desk in Manila, Philippines, and just a week ago, Best Film at the 24th Queer Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal.  

In ‘Lingua Franca,’ the protagonist Olivia (Sandoval) is an undocumented Filipino trans woman who works as a caregiver for an aging Russian expat Olga (Lynn Cohen) in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  Olivia has been anxiously saving money to marry someone in exchange for a green card.  Fearful and stressed from previous green card setbacks, things change when she unexpectedly becomes romantically involved with Alex (Eamon Farren), Olga’s troubled son who struggles with dependency issues and a distrustful family.  The film weaves through issues of identity, civil rights, immigration and love. Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY acquired the title for release in select theaters and on Netflix.

In Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Films in 2020 list, ‘Lingua Franca’ registered 83 percent on Tomato meter, with the following Critics Consensus: “Lingua Franca brings warmth and humanity to its social issue-driven plot with sensitive performances and writer-director Isabel Sandoval’s gently empathetic touch.” Three-time Tony and Grammy winner Jhett Tolentino is a producer for the film. 

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