These Filipino-American Films Are Eligible Nominees for Oscars 2021—And Why They Deserve It

We’re crossing our fingers that they get the Academy’s nod

It’s great news for Women’s History Month as three Filipino-American films, all helmed by women, are announced to be eligible for Best Picture at the 93rd Academy Awards. The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) revealed the three considered are Yellow Rose by Diane Paragas, A Thousand Cuts by Ramona Diaz, and Lingua Franca by Isabel Sandoval. These feature films are among a shortlist of 366 titles qualified for nomination at the upcoming Oscars.

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Eva Noblezada as Rose. (Photo from CNN)

Pursuit of dreams

Yellow Rose stars Broadway actress and Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada. She also played the role of Kim in the Broadway revivals of Miss Saigon in 2014 and 2017. But in this film, Eva is Rose, an undocumented Filipino-American teen intent on pursuing her country music dreams. However, her mother encounters an issue with immigration. Now, Rose is forced to navigate life away from her hometown in Texas, all while being chased by the threat of deportation.

Noblezada and multi award-winning actress Lea Salonga. (Photo from Slash Film)

Co-written and directed by Diane Paragas, this musical drama explores the sentiment of alienation, a common thread running through children of immigrants. Since its premiere in 2019, Yellow Rose received 13 film festival awards.

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Isabel Sandoval as Olivia and Eamon Farren as Alex. (Photo from Variety)

Love amid uncertainty

A similar story of an undocumented woman features in Lingua Franca. Its film director Isabel Sandoval plays the role of a transgender Filipino caregiver in Brooklyn. Named Olivia, she works for an elderly woman struck with early stages of dementia. However, with the constant looming threat of ICE agents pulling away immigrants from their homes, Olivia resorts to a marriage to acquire a green card.

Sandoval and Ivory Aquino as Trixie. (Photo from Roger Ebert)

Lingua Franca has bagged several international awards such as the Grand Prize at Chéries-Chéris, a Paris-based annual international LGBT film festival. It also earned an Outstanding Fim nomination at the GLAAD or Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Award.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. (Photo from Roger Ebert)

A war to silence

On Independence Day last year, A Thousand Cuts premiered in the country and has been on the headlines since then. Directed by Ramona Diaz, the film remains relevant as it exposes and explores the dangerous conflict between the press and President Rodrigo Duterte.

Even weeks after, it remained a topic of conversation especially with the ongoing libel cases against Maria Ressa, journalist and founder of Rappler, and the national government’s shutdown of the media giant ABS-CBN.

A Thousand Cuts won awards including Best Documentary at the Gotham Independent Film Award. However, local TV and the country’s distributors did not license it. Fortunately, the PBS documentary series Frontline acquired rights to stream the documentary. Streaming will begin on March 13.

A shot from A Thousand Cuts. (Photo from Sundance Institute)

More than the excitement at having these films eligible for nomination, these call us to delve into the gripping stories and take positive action towards these realities. But for now, we can only anticipate the announcement of the final Oscar nominees on March 15 and the 93rd Academy Awards on April 25 (March 16 and April 26 in the Philippines, respectively).

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