THREE Filipina American filmmakers are one step closer to making it to the Oscars.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Thursday, February 25, revealed the 366 films eligible for the best picture Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards, set to air on April 25 live on ABC.
Among the films included in the lineup are “Yellow Rose” by Diane Paragas; “Lingua Franca” by Isabel Sandoval, and “A Thousand Cuts” by Ramona Diaz.
“Yellow Rose” is about a 17-year-old Filipina named Rose (Tony-nominated actress and singer Eva Noblezada) who struggles with her identity as her mother Priscilla (Princess Punzalan) is detained by immigration officials. The film also co-stars Tony winner and Broadway legend Lea Salonga as Rose’s aunt and country star Dale Watson.
In 2019, the film took home 13 film festival jury and audience awards, including the Special Jury Award – Best Narrative Feature at the Asian American International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize – Best Narrative Feature and Best Breakout Performance for Eva Noblezada at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
“’Yellow Rose’ has been a labor of passion for over 15 years and I’m thrilled that we can now share this very relevant story with the world,” Paragas said in a previous interview. “We have the added honor of representing the real experiences of Filipino Americans, Asian Americans, and all immigrants seeking a better life in America.”
In “Lingua Franca,” Sandoval also stars as the main character, an undocumented trans Filipina living in New York City who struggles to make enough money as a caretaker to send back to her mother in the Philippines, as well as to pay for an American man to marry her for a green card. The film was recently nominated for the John Cassavetes Award in the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards, set to air live on April 22 exclusively on IFC and AMC+.
“There’s almost a kind of aversion to complexity and in a way, it seems unfashionable and anticlimactic, but that’s my choice as a director. I make quiet, patient, subtle movies that invite people to think,” Sandoval told the Asian Journal.
“A Thousand Cuts” is a documentary film that explores the conflict between the press and the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte. The film’s primary focus is Rappler co-founder and veteran journalist Maria Ressa, an outspoken critic of the Duterte administration.
“If you watch the film, it’s an immersive experience. It is both a global story and a very specifically Philippine story. I’m not into messages necessarily. I’m into experiences if you get the experience of what it was like to live in Maria’s shoes in the most beleaguered time of her life when she was arrested twice and the backdrop of the midterm elections, which is always crazy to begin with in the Philippines. So to me, it’s a perfect backdrop because it shows local color and people are also out and about so it’s kinetic and cinematic,” Diaz told the Asian Journal.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the films included in this year’s list were able to qualify by opening for a week not just in a commercial theater in Los Angeles and New York, but for a week in a commercial theater or a nightly drive-in theater in any of six U.S. metropolitan areas: Los Angeles County; the City of New York; the Bay Area; Chicago, Illinois; Miami, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia.
Films that were intended for theatrical release but made available through commercial streaming, VOD service or other broadcast were also deemed eligible.
Academy voting will begin on March 5 until March 10. The members will choose five to 10 best picture nominees, which will be announced on March 15.