The recent staging of FilAm Creative Film Festival was a monumental gathering that meant so much to a community that Filipino-American actor Reggie Lee described as the “least represented in the media.”
In person, I felt that celebratory vibe, having witnessed its opening ceremony last November 3, held at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California. The inaugural was a three-day spectacle carrying the theme “Celebrating diverse voices and unique perspectives of the Filipino American and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) filmmakers.”
Determinedly pushed by the 13-year-old FilAm Creative group dedicating itself to “the advancement and empowerment of Filipino Americans in media and entertainment,” the event was a communing of the who’s who of Filipino-Americans as filmmakers, movie artists, creatives, media personalities, and popular showbiz faces came together to cheer and celebrate something of historic value to movie-loving people of Filipino descent.
Lee, who appeared in Hollywood blockbusters Dark Knight Rises, Drag Me To Hell, and the first entry to the The Fast and the Furious franchise, was among the luminaries spotted at the gathering that showcased film works in various forms: full-length, shorts, animation, and music video. Other famous showbiz personalities who attended the opening include Enchong Dee, Princess Punzalan, Donita Rose, Liza Diño-Seguerra, Jay R, and Brillante Mendoza who was given an award for “Excellence in Cinema.”
“The Filipino American community is the second largest Asian American community in the United States and yet we’re the least represented in the media. I think something like this wherein we’re finally coming into the forefront and having our own people organize events like this is incredibly important,” he said in a one-on-one interview, “People are finally recognizing who we are. While the Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese have always been at the forefront of the media, we have not been. They don’t know where to place us.”
Lee further noted, “With this festival, we’re telling them where to put us. That we have a voice and we’re part of the fabric of America. Kudos to the people who put this together.”
A red carpet welcome greeted several guests on their way to the college auditorium that was later packed with essentially a stellar bunch of high-achieving Filipino-Americans, delightfully reacting while watching some of the special screenings.
A number of notable works acknowledged by the FACFF were Palibut-libot, Bubble Tea, and Love, Lola, which bagged the Best Short, Best Music Video, and Jury Award, respectively.
The Los Angeles-based Filam Creative is known in the Fil-Am community as the premiere creative organization “promoting a more culturally integrated and diverse entertainment industry.”
Mark Labella, executive director of FilAm Creative, in a separate chat, expressed, “We want to show Hollywood and the world that Filipinos will turn to one another. We’re here to lift each other up. It’s not about having money or status. You don’t have to be rich and famous to do films. We’re here for each other.”
He added, “Filipinos are just so talented. We know how to sing, dance, make films, and tell stories, and our stories deserve to be told.”
Mendoza, who became a Philippine movie-making icon after winning the Best Director Award at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival for his film Kinatay, humbly accepted the honor bestowed upon him.