Filipino American director Diane Paragas with cinema icon and Brooklyn native Spike Lee on location for “Brooklyn Boheme”, a 2012 documentary co-directed by Paragas which was broadcast on SHOWTIME.ABS-CBN’s Cinematografo Originals Contest – a U.S.-based competition which aims to foster and nurture new filmmaking talent from the Filipino diaspora – has become a cinematic soapbox for Filipino American (FilAm) filmmakers with socially conscious and racially aware movie themes.
One of the latest entries is “Yellow Rose”, the story of 15-year-old Filipino American Rose Garcia (played by San Francisco Bay Area-born FilAm Thia Megia, “American Idol” Season 10’s youngest finalist) who has aspirations of becoming a country music star despite the ridicule of everyone around her.
The woman at the helm, award-winning FilAm director-cinematographer-editor-producer Diane Paragas, explains: “’Yellow Rose’ is a very personal story that I’ve been working on, off and on, for over a decade. It’s that passion project for me that is always churning in the background of everything I do. I’m even more determined today to tell this particular story as immigrants are coming under such fierce attack. It’s a country music coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of deportation. I think it’s a story that a lot of people will relate to because it’s basically a story of a misfit trying desperately to find a home.”
Paragas continues: “When my parents came to the US, we ended up in Lubbock, Texas and I grew up there. I wasn’t really a fan of country music but it was music that got me through my difficult years as a teenager being the only Filipino in my school and one of the few Asians. I thought that by exploring a character, Rose, who loves Texas and country music, it made the film more interesting because while she loves the music and Texas so much, it doesn’t love her back. My hope is that this film will delight and entertain with its music while putting a human face on the immigrant story and begin to build a bridge of understanding instead of the walls of hate that are threatening to go up every day.”
The daughter of Dr. Magdalena G. Paragas and Dr. Pablo D. Paragas, this University of Texas at Austin graduate started her career in advertising as an agency producer then quickly moved to MTV where she helped launch MTV in Asia. She then moved to Hong Kong to be the supervising producer of the 13-part documentary series, “Living Asia” for Discovery Channel. She started her company, Civilian Studios, in New York with her MTV colleague and produced content for Oxygen, IFC and Bravo. At the same time, she directed her first feature length documentary for PBS called, “Kababayan”, about Filipinos in America.
Paragas has directed award-winning commercials for Fortune 500 companies including InterActiveCorp’s social network, Proust.com, for which she won first place in the Google TV for ALL Competition. She directed “New York Kids: A Subway Ride Through Childhood”, which PBS broadcast in 2006 and which was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. In 2012, she produced and directed the feature documentary “Brooklyn Boheme”, which aired on SHOWTIME networks. The documentary, which was co-directed and co-produced with Nelson George, celebrates the post-Civil Rights artistic movement of Fort Greene Brooklyn and features Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Rosie Perez and Saul Williams, to name a few.
As for Cinematografo Originals, Paragas showed very high hopes. “I am super excited about this film grant for Filipino filmmakers working abroad,” she said. “As everyone knows, getting funding to make independent films has never been harder. But it’s even that much harder when you are Filipino American trying to tell stories about our own culture. Filipinos in America are the second largest Asian group in the country yet we are virtually invisible on screen and maybe even more so behind the scenes. A lot of people are talking about how Filipino food is the next big thing, I hope through grants like these, we will see Filipino cinema have a rise as well.”
Paragas concludes: “I think this film grant will make a huge impact on Filipino filmmakers outside the Philippines. There is such a direct connection between the Philippines and America. My brother, sister-in-law, my nephews and many, many cousins live in the Philippines, while my mom, dad and brother live here in the U.S. I think that ABS-CBN supporting projects abroad is a great example how we can start to work together and see the Filipino community as one big international diaspora.”
For those interested, Cinematografo Originals Contest has three deadlines for submission to allow ample time for filmmakers, including students, to submit the best versions of their entries: January 31, 2017, Early Bird; February 15, 2017, Regular; and February 28, 2017, Late Deadline. For more information, please visit www.cinematografofilmfestival.com .
For ABS-CBN’s Cinematografo Originals Contest, Paragas submitted “Yellow Rose”, a film about a 15-year-old Filipino American with dreams of making it big in country music.
Paragas directing one of her many commercial shoots
Paragas with Nelson George and Chris Rock at the premiere of her film, “Brooklyn Boheme”.