1st queer FilAm nominated for a major award at Tribeca Film Festival 

California-born Michaela Ternasky-Holland. Her mother’s family is Ilocano. Photos courtesy of Michaela Ternasky-Holland.

Michaela Ternasky-Holland, director and producer of the immersive film “Reimagined Vol. II: Mahal,”  is the first Queer Filipino American to be nominated for a major award at Tribeca Film Festival.

The film features a full Filipino/Filipino American cast  and a FilAm singer/score composer including names such as Loreto Delgado III, Daphne Nitsuga, Lee Sy and Anne Yatco.

“Mahal” is a love letter to Michaela’s father, who died in a car accident when she was very young. Through the creation of “Mahal” Michaela has confronted her own grief while also showing others they are not alone in their journey and provides a sense of hope and healing.

As a noun, “mahal” is the Tagalog word for love but as an adjective, it transforms into the Tagalog word for costly or expensive, a totally different meaning.

Inspired by the children of Bathala found in the breadth and range of mythological deities and creatures that live inside of indigenous Filipino belief systems, “Mahal” is a story of how love comes at a cost. It centers around four grieving siblings, who in the wake of losing their father, must battle their own emotional isolation in order to save the world from a peril caused by their pain.

Filming ‘Mahal’ becomes part of her grief journey after her father died in a car accident.

Michaela is a non-fiction storyteller. She is an Emmy and Webby award-winning filmmaker who specializes in creating socially impactful stories using immersive and interactive technology. As an XR/metaverse creator, consultant, and speaker, she has been recognized as one of the 100 Original Voices of XR by industry veteran Avi Bar-Zeev for her work.

Michaela has either worked or had her work featured by top brands and organizations like Disney, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, Cannes Film Festival, New York Public Library, Tribeca Film Festival, and more.

Both her previous employment with the Walt Disney Company and her background in journalism led her to want to tackle serious and relevant topics through a creative lens. To that effect, she also works in tandem with decision-makers, committees, and boards of directors that financially support, mentor, and create opportunities for those of all backgrounds.

Michaela was born in California. Her mother, born in the Philippines, immigrated to the United States thanks to her grandfather, who served in the U.S. Navy and facilitated the immigration process for both immediate and extended family members.  

Her grandparents come from a small village near Manila and belong to the Ilocano community. Growing up, Michaela’s mother, as a U.S. immigrant, faced racism, prompting her to embrace American culture. Michaela’s exposure to her Filipino heritage was mainly through visits with her grandparents, as her mother assimilated into American society. During college, she made efforts to reconnect with her Filipino roots, but being of mixed race, she often felt too Americanized to fully integrate into on-campus cultural groups.  

However, through encounters with more Filipinos and mixed race Filipinos in her life, and through projects like “Mahal” and “Lutaw,” Michaela has found a comfortable and authentic way to reconnect with her Philippine heritage. These experiences have allowed her to embrace her cultural background more deeply.

“Mahal” is the second volume in “The Reimagined” series. Each installment is a revolving door of art styles, each holding a drastically different world unique to the story itself. Reimagined will expand the cinematic possibilities of VR animation with its breathtaking scenes, epic sets, and fluid transitions. “The Reimagined” series has also been nominated for Best VR Headset Experience Metaverse, Immersive & Virtual at the 2023 Webby Awards.

“Mahal” will be premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival between June 7th and 18th.

Leave a Reply