The pandemic limited everyone’s movement, but it also forced everyone to be creative.
Several Canadian Filipinos stepped up to this year’s Vancouver Asian Film Festival Mighty Asian Moviemaking Marathon (MAMM15) short film challenge and emerged victorious. The competition challenged teams to pitch, write, shoot and edit a 5-minute short film with a maximum of six members including both cast and crew within three weeks from July 25 to August 15.
On August 29, the MAMM15 organizers live-streamed all 10 finalists and presented awards to winners through volunteers stationed at awardees’ residences.
The three-week time crunch did not faze the competition’s participants. Canadian Filipino artists participated in at least four of the ten short film finalists. Of the seven awards handed out, four went to Canadian Filipino actors and filmmakers.
The evening’s best performance award went to actress, screenwriter and team leader Lissa Neptuno of Small Bites which employs micro-aggression to highlight the issue of racism. Neptuno shares with Canadian Filipino Net (CFNet), “What inspired me (to write) was this situation we find ourselves in – the rise of anti-Asian sentiment because of Covid, and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.” She likens the story to “brush strokes on a canvas.” “With this film, I point out the brush strokes, and leave the rest up to the viewer,” she adds. “Maybe I lean more toward – if it’s not something you say or do to a white person, then don’t say or do it to me.”
Neptuno is no stranger to the film industry, having been in it for over 10 years. Of her journey, she tells CFNet, “It’s difficult for a person of colour to navigate through a system not built for them. I’ve always known that I was in someone else’s space this whole time, playing by someone else’s rules…it took a long time to get here.”
Neptuno grew up in a Filipino household which she described as creative and filled with music, play-acting, drawing and lots of television. “With all the television I was consuming, I was in awe of stories that followed people like me – the ‘other’ – whether that was a sitcom in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or the Shakespearean saga in space that was Star Trek: The Next Generation.” She admits having been addicted to Nancy Drew and would write about “three friends who would run around solving mysteries together.” Neptuno remembers, “I was ten when I discovered that I liked to act out those scenes as well.”
Director of Photography Marc Yungco won the best cinematography award for Dirty Laundry, which was shot in a laundromat in Surrey, BC. Yungco was a 13-year-old Cebuano who immigrated to Canada with his family. “I’ve lived in Surrey ever since I came here,” says Yungco.
Yungco remembers taking a television and film class in grade 11 and “it blew my mind.” He tells CFNet, “I made very bad student films but I didn’t care. I got to be creative and expressive in ways that I couldn’t at that time.” He adds, “I chose directing and cinematography because of the amount of control I get with the picture/image. They’re not easy but it’s the kind of challenge that I love to tackle.”
Dirty Laundry by Canadian Filipino director Josh Aries and led by an all-Canadian Filipino cast also garnered the event’s two People’s Choice awards: best overall short and best overall performance for actor Jordan Cameron who’s half Filipino, half Dutch. The film’s producer Philip Planta was also honoured with the MAMM Long Time Supporter Award. The comedy is about a fake robbery gone wrong, all to impress an ex-girlfriend. Aries gave a shoutout to the Filipino community during the event’s interviews with team leaders: “We Filipinos are a pretty tough bunch!” and called on the community to “step out of the woods” to showcase talent.
Another film created by a Canadian Filipino with an unmistakably Filipino theme is Thank You Mila about a Filipina caregiver who contends with her client’s continuous decline with Alzheimer’s disease. Director Abigail Krishna Padilla, whose mother is a caregiver, tackles loneliness and growing old alone in this all-too familiar tale.
The winning short films will be showcased at the 24th Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival from November 5 to 8.