Success of Filipina trans filmmaker Isabel Sandoval challenges film industry to open doors to marginalized storytellers
Filipino American filmmaker Isabel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca”, which as of today made Rotten Tomatoes’ updated Top 200 Films of 2020 (joined by another FilAm film, “Yellow Rose
” helmed by Diane Paragas), has just notched another victory in the international film festival circuit. It bagged the Best International Narrative Film at the 15th
Tel Aviv International LGBT Film festival. To date, it is the ninth award for the film and Sandoval from festivals in the Philippines, France, Texas and Arkansas in the U.S., Ukraine, Portugal, Norway, Russia and Israel.
“Lingua Franca”, simply put, is a story of an undocumented Filipina trans caregiver in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach who is trying to pursue marriage to get a green card. But there is nothing simple in the narrative which goes way beyond your regular romantic indie drama. “Lingua Franca” at its core is about finding personal liberty, identity and dignity in the complex mise-en-scène
of the times in the U.S. It is ultimately an authentic American immigrant story. And judging from the reception in various international film festivals, this theme is resonating.
In a recent interview with Inquirer.net Entertainment Editor Rito P. Asilo, Sandoval (who wrote, produced, directed and edited the film) emphasized that “Lingua Franca” as a film “is not meant to push for gay or queer rights. It’s about wanting the same civil rights and liberties afforded to cisgender and heterosexual individuals – and that’s the right to live and love freely, without inhibition.”
In the same interview, Sandoval added: “I am not the kind of director who prescribes solutions to issues that are complex and thorny. But I like to think that I ask thought-provoking questions and present characters and situations that encourage people to think more deeply about the themes that my films touch on.”
In a previous interview with "Lingua Franca" producer Jhett Tolentino by ABS-CBN TFC’s BA New York correspondent Don Tagala, Tolentino said, “Any citizen should be able to serve our country and this movie is a platform. We’re also pushing the envelope that regardless of who you are, where you come from, we are all equal.”
The international success in the film festival circuit of “Lingua Franca” proves a point that the entertainment industry should not dismiss. Jude Dry of IndieWire captured it perfectly: “Isabel Sandoval’s luminous third feature announces the arrival of a new era of trans auteurs, illustrating the woefully untapped potential of marginalized storytellers.”
Here’s hoping that “Lingua Franca” opens a whole new world for bold and brave storytellers to expand the industry’s room for different yet dignified narratives of humanity. "Lingua Franca" is available on Netflix.
NERISSA M. FERNANDEZ
Head, Global Corporate Affairs & Strategic CSR
Head, North & Latin America Corporate Affairs & PR
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