Yellow Rose tackles immigration challenges
Eva Noblezada, Lea Salonga and Princess Punzalan
STAR/ File

Yellow Rose tackles immigration challenges

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2021 - 12:00am

“It’s about 15 minutes or so in the entire movie, but it was a pivotal 15 minutes,” said Lea Salonga of her total time exposure in Yellow Rose, a musical film that tackles immigration challenges from a Filipino point of view.

The Tony Award-winning singer-actress said that her character is not easy to like. “I had a lot of fun shooting. I’m a supporting character. She is somebody who does not really want to help Rose (played by Eva Noblezada) in her journey through this film.”

Portraying the character Aunt Gail is something that Lea sees as “far more attractive than, far more interesting for me to play after having played many ingenues and heroines in my career. It was interesting to tackle and to try something where the character isn’t really, really well-liked.”

She continued, “So, trying to gain some empathy from an audience would be a little more challenging unlike Rose who you know is the hero through the entire narrative of the film.”

Lea said she patterned her character after somebody that she didn’t like. “It made for an interesting shoot for me, I guess. And me, trying to gain empathy for that kind of human being. Yeah, recently I was reminded why I didn’t like this person so it was interesting to be revisited by all this, all at the same time. It was the power of the script, the power of the story that convinced me to do this.”

Yellow Rose is the timely story of a Filipina teen (Eva) from a small Texas town who fights to pursue her dreams as a country music performer while having to decide between staying with her family or leaving the only home she has known.

The film premiered in 2019 and won awards in such international filmfests as Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Urbanworld Film Festival and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Award. It is set to have its Philippine premiere on tomorrow, Jan. 29, via KTX.ph, iWant TFC, SkyCable pay-per-view and Cignal pay-per-view.

Directed by Diane Paragas, the film also stars Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada (Hadestown, Miss Saigon) in her feature film debut, Princess Punzalan, Dale Watson, Gustavo Gomez, Libby Villari and Liam Booth.

Lea and Diane initially worked together in a documentary show. “She had directed me for a Discovery Channel show,” shared Lea.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” began Fil-Am director Diane. “As much as it is an American film, it is definitely a Filipino film. I’m just really excited for people to see it there. It was a long time, I mean it’s been many, many years trying to get this thing made so this is a big moment for me to have the film come out for Filipino people and it feels like coming home.”

Equally proud for the film to be shown in the Philippines, Princess said, “Proud na proud ako na mapapanood na finally ng mga kababayan ang pelikulang ito dahil napansin siya sa America at sa iba’t ibang film festivals internationally at gusto kong makita rin ng ating kababayan kung ano ba itong pelikulang ginawa namin. So, excited talaga ako na mapanood ng mga pamilya ko rin d’yan.”

Eva, on the other hand, said, “It’s so nice to be able to make the rounds… It has struck the hearts of people from all over the world and now it’s finally coming back to the root of it all. So yeah, it’s really like coming home.”

Like Lea, Eva played Kim in Miss Saigon on Broadway and the West End. She was born in San Diego, California to a Filipino dad and a Mexican-American mom.

“I’ve never been to the Philippines but I was planning to go there and stay for at least three weeks, and this pandemic happened. According to my lola, our place is in Upi somewhere in Mindanao and she also mentioned Iloilo and Bacolod,” shared Eva, who also expressed her delight about portraying her character in the film.

Undeniably, the film is a story about immigration and identity but the director said she tried her best to just tell a human story without being too political. She also stressed that it’s not based on her life in America.

“It’s kind of very, very loosely based on my time growing up in Texas and as a teenager, I played music but not anywhere as good as Eva and I didn’t play country music. I had a mohawk and a terrible band (laughs) but music was my outlet. I felt like, you know, a square peg in a round hole, which is one of the songs in the film but I flipped it around and made the character love Texas because you know there’s not a lot of Filipinos (who are into) in Texan country music yet this girl (Rose) grew up in Texas.”

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