Reflecting on Filipino American History Month at CAAMFest FORWARD With Director Evelyn Obamos

Ruby Ibarra and Evelyn Obamos
From documentaries to musicals... highlights of our Filipino American programs at CAAMFest FORWARD

As Filipino American History Month wraps up this October, we are reflecting on the profound ways Filipino Americans have impacted our society. At CAAMFest FORWARD, we celebrated some of the trailblazing Filipino American filmmakers who have changed our industry and our greater communities through their storytelling.

One of these filmmakers is Evelyn Obamos, the director of 7000 Miles: Homecoming, a new music documentary which chronicles Bay Area hip hop star Ruby Ibarra and her band The Balikbayans as they take a trip back to the Philippines. As part of the Filipino American History Month Celebration at CAAMFest FORWARD, Obamos’ film premiered in front of a sold-out audience at the festival’s first night of drive-in programming at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. For Obamos, the night was one to remember.

“Seeing our work on the big screen was so surreal, and hearing all the cars honking in the parking lot was the first time I felt like I was surrounded by our community since quarantine,” she recalls. “Nothing will replace real hugs, but seeing that full parking lot and all the support was close enough.”

Watch the Interview with Evelyn Obamos and Ruby Ibarra

Obamos’ relationship with Ruby Ibarra extends further back than just this project. Obamos previously directed Nothing On Us: Pinays Rising in 2018, a documentary that goes behind the scenes of Ibarra’s “Us” music video. Obamos calls her most recent project “another Ruby Ibarra brainchild”, and said that after seeing Ruby’s influence on the Filipino community, she knew it was a story worth documenting.

A longtime CAAM supporter and a former volunteer, Obamos says the organization has connected her with many Filipino American filmmakers including Ramona Diaz, H.P. Mendoza, AJ Calomay, Marie Jamora, Andrea Walter and Diane Paragas.

“Putting geo-political controversies aside, CAAM represents a wide group of identities within the Asian American umbrella, including Filipino American. It’s been refreshing to see the growth of Filipino/Filipino American representation at CAAM over the years,” Obamos reflects. “Seeing their incredible work is a reminder of what is possible.”

In addition to 7000 Miles: Homecoming, we’d also like to recognize some of the other Filipino American films which were spotlighted at CAAMFest FORWARD this year:

Watch the interview with Lea Salonga

CAAMFest Drive-In Day One Lea Salonga in Concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Dir. Todd DeckerCAAM-funded live concert features Lea Salonga, who burst onto the Broadway musical scene with her 1991 Tony Award-winning performance as Kim in Miss Saigon. This new Great Performances program presents Salonga in peak performance at the Sydney Opera House, singing a selection of songs from her Broadway career as well as her hits from the animated movie blockbusters Aladdin and Mulan.

Watch the Q&A for The Girl Who Left Home

The Girl Who Left Home, Dir. Mallorie Ortega This CAAMFest 2020 Audience Award winning film presents Broadway glitz, but also the joy of sprinkling song over everyday Filipino American life: living rooms full of massage chairs, family portraits and pandesal. There’s also karaoke, a Bruno Mars-inspired number and the perfectly-timed harmony that tells you everything will be OK. In this post-Crazy-Ex Girlfriend Filipino American musical, daughters and best friends wear their emotions and culture proudly, singing with ambition and beaming with talent. Watch the interview with Ortega, Haven Everly, Emy Coligado, and Angelo Santos on YouTube.

Watch the Q&A for The Celine Archive

The Celine Archive In 1932, Celine Navarro was buried alive by her community in Northern California. San Francisco State University School of Cinema Director Celine Parreñas Shimizu’s film digs up her story. Shimizu, a grieving mother with a long-term commitment to exploring race, gender and immigration, digs up Celine Navarro’s story alongside those of her family, of community members, and of scholars who know different details about this largely untold event in American history, exposing silences that haunt Filipinx American communities today.

Watch the Q&A for Liwanag

Liwanag: Shedding Light on Superstore’s Mateo and Filipinx-American Portrayals on TV actor Nico Santos (“Mateo Liwanag”), Co-Executive Producer Rene Gube, and Guest Director Heather Jack had a candid conversation on Filipino portrayals on TV and Asian American culture in media.  Sibley Scoles, Access Hollywood Co-Host, moderated the discussion.

Watch the Q&A for First Look: Kapwa

First Look: Kapwa, Dir. PJ Raval An upcoming series which highlights Filipinos and their lived experiences navigating the current and ongoing crisis and the critical family conversations they inspire.

Watch the Q&A for the Forward Filipino Shorts Program

Shorts Program: Forward Filipino

  • Harana (Serenada), Dir. Marie Jamora Maya is a cover band singer in a Las Vegas casino-hotel lounge trying to connect with her daughter who is growing up in the Philippines without her. Wrestling between her passion for songwriting and becoming a pop-culture photocopy for an un-listening audience, she realizes that music — the one thing that keeps them distant – can also bring them closer together.
  • Dancing On My Own, Dir. Alexandra Cuerdo A love letter to the queer Asian experience, inspired by New York’s radical dance party Bubble_T. A hybrid documentary/narrative, this short film stars Joy Regullano (Supportive White Parents), Princess Punzalan (Yellow Rose) and features artists from the Bubble_T community, including actor Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live).
  • Check the CAAM Channel on YouTube to see more interviews with filmmakers… we are continuing to update!

    Interested in reading more? Check out our CAAM40 Storyteller profiles of other influential Filipino American creatives Ruby Ibarra, Drama Del Rosario, and CJ Hunt.