05-15 November 2020

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HIFF Blog

October 29, 2019

HIFF39 KAU KA HŌKŪ NOMINEE: 5 Questions with Diane Paragas, director of YELLOW ROSE

After its world premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in May 2019, YELLOW ROSE has experienced a terrific festival run thus far. Just weeks before its premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, worldwide distribution rights of the film were acquired by Sony Pictures.

YELLOW ROSE depicts a pertinent, difficult issue in the American political milieu: the experience of undocumented families near the Mexican border, told uniquely from a Filipina perspective and embolded by the Austin country music sound. We asked its director Diane Paragas to tell us more about her challenging journey from concept to screen.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey as a filmmaker thus far. 

I’ve been trying to get this film made for the better part of 15 years. It has been a labor of love because I just wanted to make an American film with a Filipino lead because I just never saw myself on the big screen. But along the way, I actually became a documentary filmmaker, then a commercial director, and I even became a mother during those 15 years. But each of these things actually made me a better filmmaker and more ready to tell this story. The story was always about immigration but the fact that the film is coming out now is fortuitous because it is needed more now than ever, where there is such demonization of immigrants in the country.  

What inspired and motivated you to work on YELLOW ROSE?

I will admit that I gave up at times and pursued other projects and even made other films, but I always came back to YELLOW ROSE because of the lack of representation of the Filipino American experience on film.  I’m so proud that our film will be the first Filipino-American film to receive a US theatrical release by a major Hollywood studio. 

What were some of the greatest challenges of working on YELLOW ROSE?

The greatest challenge was getting the film financed and then working with a very limited budget. We completed most of the principal photography in 19 days with one camera on location in Austin, TX during 110 degree weather. Still was the time of my life.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching YELLOW ROSE?

I truly hope that this films begins a conversation about the undocumented experience. I went to great trouble to make the film as neutral politically as I could so that you could just empathize with the plight of undocumented youth. Also, I really do hope that people love the music. I think all films have to have a little bit of magic even in the darkest of circumstances, and that’s the role that the music plays in our film. 

What are you and YELLOW ROSE’s plans beyond HIFF?

I am in production for an experimental documentary called THE THREE LIVES OF DAVID WONG, which is a puppet film about a wrongfully convicted Chinese restaurant worker. And I’m writing a magical realism love story that takes place during the bombing of Manila during WWII, called LIZARDS IN THE ATTIC. I feel that these three films form a trilogy exploringthe relationship betweenEast and the West. We will be premiering YELLOW ROSE in the US and Philippines in the Spring of 2020.

Read about all the HIFF39 KAU KA HŌKŪ Award nominees. To read more and purchase tickets, go to the YELLOW ROSE program page.

 


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