‘Malditas:’ 2 cousins lean on each other when an uncle passed away

Filipina-Puerto Rican documentary filmmaker Bree Nieves 

In her short film “Malditas,” Filipina-Puerto Rican filmmaker Bree Nieves documents how her Catholic Filipino community grappled with grief after the death of her Uncle Vince. The director centers the film around herself and her cousin Giselle coming to terms with their new reality in the conservative Florida county where they were raised. Through heartbreak and celebration, Nieves examines her multi-racial heritage, her faith and familial relationships.

Nieves’s documentary  is part of the World Channel series on  Asian American Stories of Resilience and Beyond which aired May 31 on PBS and is available also on World Channel’s YouTube. It has seven shorts that address the gamut of issues affecting the AAPI community, including immigration; the loss of loved ones and work due to COVID-19; the impact of George Floyd’s killing on Black Asian American families; and the murder of four Sikh Americans at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis in 2021.  

Nieves, who works as a field producer for CNN, pointed out what Maldita means to her as a headstrong daughter of a Filipino mother. That she chose to profile Filipino women who fight back proves her unbreakable attachment to her Philippine roots.

“To me it’s a phrase that a parent uses to a child to describe their combativeness or ‘bad behavior,’ when someone stands up for themselves and it isn’t wanted,” she said in an email interview with The FilAm. “I think the term’s use varies from family to family, person to person — sometimes it’s really negative and other times it can be used lovingly.”

Nieves (left) and her cousin Giselle. ‘We were both combative.’

Growing up, Nieves recounts, she always saw Giselle as the “perfect child” – well-behaved and well-liked. But at home, Giselle, was a “maldita.” Combining interviews with   verité footage, Nieves presents her family’s resilience during a time of increased hate and violence toward the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. 

“At the time, there was unrest against Asian women and men – emotional violence, emotional labor,” Nieves said. “The call to action came when me and my family were working through how to make sense of our grief.” 

Nieves was born in Oklahoma to a Filipino mother from San Carlos City in Pangasinan, and a Puerto Rican father from Brooklyn.

“My mom comes from a large family. Her maiden name is Evangelista from her dad’s side but she never met her father,” she said. She has four brothers, an older sister and very close cousins who are like siblings.

Her father she described as “Nuyorican through and through.”  

As a CNN field producer she works out of New York and Los Angeles. “I work for CNN on a team that produces Longform Documentary. We mainly focus on pop culture. We produce quick turn feature docs and are headed up by some amazing producers and thinkers.”

She continues to work on longform and short films, and is currently being mentored by New York director and cinematographer Stephen Maing. At one time, she was paired with Filipino filmmaker Ramona Diaz – hailed for her documentaries on Arnel Pineda of Journey and Imelda Marcos — who guided her on a project.

“I admire her work from afar and wanted to land in her orbit, when I found out she would be my mentor I was shocked. As a filmmaker she has killer instincts and I’m just hoping they rub off on me,” she said.

World Channel is a platform for up-and-coming filmmakers who tell stories that humanize complex issues.  Its content is available on the PBS app via Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku.

Watch “Malditas” here:  https://youtu.be/-OIGacNhl3U


(C) The FilAm 2022

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