10 Films you shouldn’t miss at the 2nd San Diego Filipino Film Festival

These are four feature and six short films you shouldn’t miss at the San Diego Filipino Film Festival (USA) which will take place from October 13 – 18, 2022.

– Short Films –

Beauty Queen by Myra Aquino – Philippines | 18 minutes

1940, Pampanga, Philippines– Remedios Gomez is a classic woman through-and-through, and she has the town’s beauty pageant crown to prove it. But when the Empire of Japan invades the Philippines, plunging the country into unmitigated chaos and violence, her quiet provincial life is completely overturned. After her father is tortured and killed by the Japanese for his refusal to obey them, she runs to the mountains with her brother Oscar to join the Hukbalahap resistance, and find renewed purpose in the war. Once she arrives in the thick jungle encampment, however, she discovers that not only does being a woman limit her options in the resistance, but her suppressed grief over her father’s death continues to haunt her. She must grapple with both as she tries to find the strength to be who she needs to be for her country– while still unapologetically being herself. (SDFFF 2022)


Dear Nanay by Frances Grace Mortel – USA | 4 minutes

A love letter to her grandmother, this experimental documentary explores the filmmaker’s early memories in the Philippines and her search for refuge from pandemic anxiety and domestic claustrophobia. (SDFFF 2022)

Lahi by Reina Bonta – USA | 16 minutes

For the first time since she was young, 18-year-old Mimi DeLa Cruz returns to O’ahu for her grandmother’s memorial service. On the island, can’t seem to find her footing, acting like an ignorant tourist and unmoved by the Filipino culture and community that surrounds her. When preparing her grandmother’s house to be sold, she finds a cardboard box full of ornate plates addressed to her grandmother’s friend, Gabriela. Reluctantly, Mimi embarks on a journey across the island to deliver the box, racing against the clock to make her return flight to California. Throughout, she is visited by the eerie apparition of her grandmother. She meets Filipino elders who bring the memory of her grandmother to life and whose stories about Filipino identity turn Mimi’s worldview upside down, opening her eyes to the cultural history she had once rejected. (SDFFF 2022)

Morena by Nicole Mairose Dizon – USA | 8 minutes

While painting a portrait of indigenous Aeta natives in the Philippines, Ciara Morena, an insecure folk artist, runs out of brown paint to complete her piece. At an art store, she hesitates to pick up the darker brown paint after thinking about her mother’s warnings about becoming too dark under the sun. To top it off, she overhears customers talking about tanning and skin whitening pills and faces a tenant who mistakes her for a facility employee due to her appearance. Fed up with the triggers and microaggressions, Ciara resorts to skin whitening cream after she sees an ad. When the cream arrives the next day, she tests it out and hallucinates flashes of her ancestor, a Kalinga Warrior. As the side effects and hallucinations worsen, Ciara discovers a side effect of the product and must rush to the hospital before it erases every trace of her existence…and her. (SDFFF 2022)

Reyna by Jenielle Ramos Salarda – USA | 6 minutes

Reyna is a 2D animated short film about Vina, this year’s lead Queen in the Santacruzan festival, who struggles to get ready after members in the community make negative comments about her appearance. Joy, Vina’s supportive sister, helps her to get ready and encourages Vina to embrace herself as she is by discussing the historical context and origin of these harmful comments before leading the festivities. (SDFFF 2022)

Tala by Justin Gerald Ocampo – USA | 15 minutes

A Filipino family grapples with the grave consequences of a domestic abuse incident, forcing two sisters named Tala and Hanan to clash over their father’s flaws. Finding themselves in a situation where all they have is each other, they must reckon with what happened for the sake of their sisterly bond. (SDFFF 2022)

– Feature Films –

Kintsugi by Lawrence Fajardo – Philippines | 2020 – 91 minutes

When Harue, the heiress of a pottery factory, suddenly goes home unannounced to her hometown, Saga, Dante, a Filipino laborer, finds himself helplessly attracted to her. One day, Dante meets an accident and breaks the prototype of a new design being developed at the factory.

Harue saves him from getting reprimanded by his supervisor and repairs the broken bowl through a process called kintsugi where broken pieces are attached using lacquer and the cracks are painted with gold.

Harue gives the restored bowl to Dante and their relationship blossoms into something beyond the confines of the workplace. However, Dante, all of a sudden, needs to fly home for a family emergency and Harue discovers that her father is setting her up for an arranged marriage.

When Dante returns, he must admit the real reason for his leave and Harue must make a difficult decision to either fulfill her filial duties or choose her personal happiness. (SDFFF 2022)


Leonor Will Never Die by Martika Ramirez Escobar – Philippines | 2022 – 101 minutes

Leonor Reyes was once a major player in the Filipino film industry after creating a string of successful action films, but now her household struggles to pay the bills. When she reads an advertisement looking for screenplays, Leonor begins tinkering with an unfinished script about the quest of young, noble Ronwaldo, forced to avenge his brother’s murder at the hand of thugs. While her imagination provides some escape from reality, she goes all-in after an accident involving a television knocks her out, sends her into a coma, and transports her inside the incomplete movie. Now Leonor can play out her wildest dreams firsthand and discover the perfect ending to her story. (SDFFF 2022)


The Celine Archive by Celine Parrenas Shimizu – USA | 2020 – 69 minutes

Adulteress, traitor, heroine, or prey?

In 1932, Celine Navarro was buried alive by her community in Northern California.

This film digs up herstory.

The filmmaker, a grieving mother, with a long-term commitment to exploring race, gender and immigration, digs up Celine Navarro’s story, exposing silences that haunt Filipin@x American communities today, along with Celine Navarro’s family, community members and scholars who know different details about this largely untold event in American history. (SDFFF 2022)


We Don’t Dance for Nothing by Stefanos Tai – Hong Kong, USA, Philippines, Canada | 2022 – 86 minutes

“WE DON’T DANCE FOR NOTHING” is a photo-montage love letter to the Filipina Domestic Workers of Hong Kong. This visual recreation of true memories shared by this community of 400,000 women (millions globally) follows one woman’s plan to run away. Captured on Super-16 amidst the Hong Kong Protests, stills blend with motion to highlight the passionate Street Dancing of these women, and touch upon LGBTQ+ themes, issues of Workers’ Rights, and Hong Kong’s changing political landscape.

From Chinese – Greek – American director Stefanos Tai, the film has been described as “La Jetée” meets “La La Land”, and its use of stills vs. motion represent a bold new method of filmmaking: one which invites the viewer to viscerally experience the entrapment felt by these women, and their release into freedom when they dance. Among saturated and staid media coverage of these women, WDDFN paints these heroes beyond their job descriptions, as people full of talent, joy, and grace. (SDFFF 2022)


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