Touched by "Diwa"

Very rarely do I watch a movie that affects me so deeply and stays with me long after the credits have ended. This was the case when I watched the short film, “Diwa.” I had seen the poster and promos on social media and kept reminding myself to do some research and look into it. I had assumed that it was a story of a young woman; probably illegally residing in the US.  Here I was thinking it had something to do with President Trump, his views on immigration, DACA or building the wall. Boy was I wrong.

Aina Dumlao as Diwa

Aina Dumlao as Diwa

As I told Aina Dumlao, the lead actress and the co-director, co-writer, and co-producer of “Diwa”, the movie was so much more than that. It resonated with me for so many reasons. Although I am a Filipina-American and have never experienced Diwa’s situation, I have heard and know of many Filipinos who have come to America in hopes of a better life, and to help their family back home – my grandparents, relatives, acquaintances, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, as in life, there are so many unknowns and life isn’t always fair. I’ve heard the many tales.  “Diwa”, as the filmmakers state, “is a true story many times over…Diwa is a fictional character, but her story is not.”

I love films that make you think, ask, and feel what the character (and sometimes characters) are going through even though you’ve never been in their shoes. This is exactly what Diwa did.  I felt….and asked...soooo many questions…Have you ever felt so alone? What would you do if you felt you had nowhere else to go? If you saw no light at the end of the tunnel? How would I react if someone treated me unfairly? Would I have the courage? How did my empathy and understanding for undocumented workers change so much after watching this film? Why did this film affect me so much? I could go on…

“Diwa” is more than a film about immigrants and the racial injustices of our world. It is an emotional, powerful and heartbreakingly sad but often true story that deals with false hope, lost dreams, survival and a strong sense of family.

I truly hope you go out and support this film which is making it's way through various film festivals.  And if you are in Southern California this weekend, Diwa will have a world premiere and more importantly can make it an Academy Award contender at this weekend’s Dances with Films event.

The 21st Dances with Films screening will take place on Saturday, June 9th at 5pm, at the historic TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood.

For more info, you can head to

2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

The 33rd annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival kicked off on April 27th with the screening of Justin Lin’s film, “Better Luck Tomorrow”. It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago when I first saw this movie.  So much has happened since then, and it’s at the same time, interesting to see that not much has changed.  We can still relate to the characters of the film as well as their storylines.


I have been a huge supporter of the LAAPFF for several years and am always thrilled to see which movies will be screening.  The films being showcased are always some of the best and do a wonderful job in representing the talented filmmakers, directors, writers, and actors in our APA community. This year was no different.  

One example of this was Justin Chon’s movie, and Sundance Audience Award winner “Gook” which takes place during the 1992 LA Riots. “Gook” has received numerous positive reviews, including a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.7 rating on IMDB. Samuel Goldwyn also picked up the North American rights for the film, which is scheduled to be released sometime in August. “Gook” is screening at the LAAPFF Orange County on Wednesday, May 10th.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Chon throughout the years - from his “Twilight” roles to “Seoul Searching” and his other directorial debut movie, “Man Up.”   It’s such a thrill to see him go from talented actor, to director and writer. I cant wait to see what else Justin has in store for us.

I had the opportunity to be a juror for the Shorts Documentary competition; which was also the first time this category was created.  What an honor!  Each of the short documentaries in the competition was told in their own beautiful way. The other jurors and I had a difficult time reaching a decision. 

In the end, The Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Alisa Yang for her documentary, “Please Come Again” which centered on her story and the history of the love hotels in Japan.  After watching the short, I was completely speechless.  “Please Come Again” incorporated only text and visuals of the love hotels and the different meanings each room has held throughout the years.  It was not only a documentary on Alisa’s life, but also used the love hotels as a metaphor for the female body.

The Best Cinematography award was presented to “Forever, Chinatown”.  “Forever, Chinatown” follows the life of 81 year old artist, Frank Wong, who, for the past 40 years has recreated memories of his childhood, living in San Francisco’s Chinatown, through miniature models.  The cinematography for the short captured every intricate detail of the film, including Wong’s touching, nostalgic and some times bittersweet memories, the miniature models he created and was able to lucidly encapsulate the tone of the documentary. 


Jennifer Zheng won for Best Director for her documentary “Tough”.  Zheng’s choice in creating an animated documentary was an interesting but well told one.  “Tough” tells the story of a Chinese mother and British born daughter who openly talk as adults for the first time and honestly discuss growing up in their respective backgrounds and the cultural issues they struggled with.

Congratulations to all of the winners.

The Orange County portion of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival is still going on until May 11th.  For more information and for tickets on the movies currently screening, you can head to