It’s been one week since the 33rd annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and two weeks since our FilAm Creations: A Filmmaker Movement premiere at ArtShare LA, the euphoria may have subsided, but the drive has not.
Twenty-four hours after the Opening Night Gala of Justin Lin’s rare 35mm print of Better Luck Tomorrow (first picture), FAC members Danice Cabanela and Craig Wilson (second picture) co-presented the I Got You, Fam short films program at the Downtown Independent in Downtown Los Angeles on Friday, April 28th. And, fellow FAC members Sheila Tejada and Maurus Dumalaog co-presented the U.S. Premiere of Saving Sally at the CGV Cinemas in Koreatown Los Angeles on Monday, May 1st. The live action animated feature film won the Audience Award for International Narrative Feature and the Special Jury Award in the International Narrative Competition.
“This is not my first time at this film festival. I first volunteered as a videographer in 2013. I had one film (Predetermined) screen in 2015 and two films (Dirty Sock & Friends) screen in 2016. But this year is by far the best experience I have ever had at this festival. I think because this time I got to enjoy it with an extended family through Film Creations.” says filmmaker Rommel Andaya (What You Don’t Say and Uncle Eddy).
Originally from San Antonio, Texas, co-producer and lead actress of Uncle Eddy, Danice Cabanela says, “I knew of no other Filipino actors or creators like myself so coming to Los Angeles, California, a mecca for artists (as well as Filipinos!) was a mindblowing and heartbreaking experience in the best way possible. It was like my heart cracked open after all of these years about what it means to be Asian American in the U.S (which meant something different to me in Texas than in LA), and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival was a playground to befriend new playmates and explore what that means — together, and moving forward.”
In an effort to inspire, motivate and mobilize the Filipino American and Filipino filmmaking community, the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Visual Communications Francis Cullado, challenged FilAm Creative to create short films to premiere at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. As a result, FAC filmmakers of various levels of experience stepped up to share their artistic voice and storytelling.
After three to four months of meetings, networking, assembling, development, casting, pre-production, filming, post-production, legal clearances and outside logistics, the filmmaker challenge and finally, the 21st century movement, FilAm Creations made its premiere on Wednesday, May 3rd at ArtShare LA in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles.
Twelve new short films from amateurs to auteurs shared the celebratory spotlight among their family, friends and peers in one of the most unforgettable nights of their careers.
Cabanela adds, “This was my first time at LAAPFF and I attended not only as an actor, but a filmmaker –and a joyously grateful one at that. Thanks to Francis Cullado, VC, FilAm Creative and of course my co-EP and creator of ‘Uncle Eddy’, Jack Hernandez, I got to co-produce and star in a film that screened with 11 other filmmaker teams who created original, diverse content. Ours was more ‘Judd Apatow meets Filipino millennials’ and there were other films that leaned family friendly, romantic comedy, even thriller. It was both eye opening and motivating in regards to learning about the AAPI media landscape, specifically within the Filipino community.”
Introductions by FAC Networks’ Behind-The-Scenes hosts Angel Qinan and Maurus Dumalaog, FilAm Creations curator Craig Obligacion Wilson and FilAm Creative Executive Director Meriden Villanueva were made, all twelve short films screened for the first time to an attentive audience then the closing remarks, the networking hour and the after party at Angel City Brewery nearby, everyone celebrated the works they have done.
“Feel lucky to get involved in a community that is positive, full of energy and supportive. The event was well done and well presented. Enjoyed it overall.” says actress Anna Pan.
Others who have worked in the industry for a while now were impressed and happy what the future will bring.
Actress Aina Dumlao who recurs as ‘Andie Lee’ on CBS’ MacGyver and guest starred on HBO’s Ballers says, “I grew up in the Philippines at a time when billboards, TV and film were dominated by mestizos and mestizas…which is neither good nor bad. Its just that, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. Which is why, ever being an actress never once entered my mind.
Fast forward to my first LAAPFF experience where Asians from all backgrounds and the films that speak to our individual and collective experiences are on the forefront and CELEBRATED. It was an experience that made me feel recognized and ‘at home’ as a Filipino American and as an artist.
Yes, we still have a long way to in terms of our voices being heard as Filipino Americans but I feel that, for the first time in a long time…now is our time. And as an actress and filmmaker, I hope I can help pave the way for others by telling compelling, unique and truthful stories that everyone from all backgrounds and walks of life can relate to.”
Andaya adds, “I was amazed at how eager people wanted to create. They were just waiting for the platform to be seen. I think the most attractive thing about Film Creations is the screening program at LAAPFF. To have that platform to show your work is phenomenal.”
“I applaud the Film Creations Staff for their hard work in putting this all together. The experience has been great. That night I felt the excitement from all the filmmakers and I know it will help drive the momentum for each of us to continue creating.”
“I think there needs to be more Filipino American representation in entertainment. “The Debut” started it off but we didn’t continue after that. It was so great to see a Filipino American face, a Filipino American family and Filipino culture displayed on the big screen. We need to keep that momentum going. It made me so happy to see a new Filipino American family as featured in ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’.”
“I hope to tell more Filipino American stories and become the platform for filmmakers behind the camera and actors in front of the camera. Hollywood needs to know that we exist and that we also have interesting stories to tell. If Hollywood won’t tell our stories, we need to tell them.”
Cabanela continues, “Our program screened to a sold-out showing on May 3rd at Art Share. The room was full, the food was hot and the energy was high. I think for many of us at least, it was our first time showcasing our work with that many other Filipinos filmmakers and that made the night even more invigorating to come together like that, especially with all this whitewashing nonsense as of late #whitealliessayno
I also had the wonderful opportunity to co-present another program at the festival ‘I Got You, Fam’ where I was invigorated by other films such as ‘Float’, ‘Lost Dogs’, ‘Fragile’ and ‘Flip the Record’. That was dope.
Justin Chon’s ‘Gook’ was an awe-inspiring experience to behold as we witnessed a story about friendship during the L.A. Riots within an Asian American perspective. Excited for it to hit theaters August 18th so we can all SHOW UP with our wallets and our voices. Bring your rich doctor cousins.
With this tremendous wave of Asian Pacific awareness and community it’s important to keep the creative momentum going and not solely “eventize” our efforts. We need to continue to support each other and elevate the best work possible to represent our voices and our various peoples. I’m also a big proponent of being allies for other minorities outside of the AAPI community, which is why Chon’s film impacted me so deeply. If we can continue to do that, we can break down cultural barriers we might not always think about and continue to grow our empathy, compassion and connection as human beings. After all, we’re all just trying to do the best we can, every day.
Overall, #LAAPFF2017 was a tremendous success in my book. As an actor, creator and FilAm in today’s landscape. I am more fired up than ever before.”
FilAm Creative is a Los Angeles-based community organization dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the media and entertainment industry.
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