Updated: April 1, 2021, 12:00 PM
CELEBRATING FILIPINO-CANADIAN FILMMAKER ANA DE LARA
March 31, 2021
Unceded Territories – Annually, March marks the month of the year that highlights the contribution of women to society and in the ongoing process of rebuilding a just society. Whether it is contemporary to celebrate Women’s History month in March, it corresponds with the historical International Women’s Day celebration on March 8.
The women’s rights movement has been bringing attention to issues beyond race, class, and gender. A focal point in women’s rights is when parts of society finally accept the fact that women are human beings. Unfortunately, in these modern days, in the year 2021, attacks against women and the LGBTQ communities remain. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and the LGBTQ communities have been on the rise.
March is also filled with newsfeeds with the Golden Globes Awards 2021. Chloe Zhao became the first Asian director to win at Golden Globes. She is the second woman to win the award since 1984, and the first woman of colour to win for best director. Her win became “an inspiration for young Asian girls,” and it was a “win for women everywhere”.
As an Asian woman in the arts, I am delighted to see that diversity in film is making its way on many levels. I too, look forward to seeing a Filipina up on stage receiving awards in the near future.
ANA DE LARA’S “FIRST WINTER LAST”
The Victoria-based Filipina-Canadian actor and stand-up comedian turned screenwriter, director, and producer is a theatre enthusiast and graduate.
After finishing theatre school and finding herself with no jobs, Ana Bartulabac (later changed to Ana de Lara) was faced with the lack of opportunities and diversity in the Canadian film industry. The lack of diversity was a deep challenge then. Although some changes were made and the film industry in the West of Canada also has bloomed and skyrocketed, as much as its real estate. Slowly, roles for Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour are becoming more visible to date, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shed a lot of the racism and gender-inequality.
Yet, de Lara’s voice remains courageous. Her first written film, “First Winter Last” (2008) is a very powerful and impactful visual poetry and short film that tells the story of a newly-arrived young Filipina girl’s experiences of racism and belonging in a foreign land. Racism as a theme can be discouraging to many, yet the storyteller with such experiences has stories that have been immortalized in the art form of moving pictures, or films, presented via a creative film which touched on the issues affecting communities to date.
Born in Meycauayan, Bulacan, Philippines, de Lara came to Canada at the young age of seven following her father who came to Canada first. Her father borrowed money to buy tickets for the rest of the family. The newly-arrived Filipino family found their new home in Victoria, BC.
As films have been a very instrumental tool in telling stories of individuals and peoples, “First Winter Last ” narrates to the audience that racism doesn’t discriminate age, that
children and youth learn racism and racist behaviours from adults and their environments, and that the impacts of racism are long lasting.
Thus, Ana de Lara’s films are truly worth celebrating. With the ongoing forced migration and globalization, de Lara’s “First Winter Last” remains an unapologetic film. “First Winter Last” won the 2008 Best Canadian Fiction at the CBC Migration International Film Competition, yet it remains instrumental as a critical film worth watching and conversing about.
“First Winter Last” can be watched via youtube, at the link
IN FILMS & THEATRE
De Lara extends her portfolio beyond the many performances and films she creates. Her films have been screened in festivals worldwide. Her short films are most notably in the Academy-qualifying Montreal World Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, and The Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, where she was presented the 2018 Spirit Award.
Although short films with topics and themes that are taboo, she has been successful in applying her creative style to this genre of storytelling. Particularly, euthanasia and suicide in her short film ‘Near Silence’ was dramatically and cinematically striking, yet it featured a dance in the midst of all the taboo. Near Silence was a finalist for the 2010 Lindalee Tracey Award, and also won the 2011 Best Narrative Short FIlm Award at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival. de Lara also has touched on the issues of violence against women, and domestic violence through her film, ‘In Control’, which won the 2018 Making a Difference Best Children’s Film Award at the Toronto Commffest Festival.
Recently, de Lara produced two features, ALL-IN MADONNA (director Arnold Lim) and OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS (director Bryan Skinner), which earned nominations, respectively, for the 2020 CMPA Emerging Producer Award and the 2020 Best Picture Leo Award. OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS is available on Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/ondemand/openforsubmissions
GOOD GIRLS DON’T & THE FILIPINA STEREOTYPES
Filipino women are known to be modest, subservient, and pious. These stereotypes of Filipinas make them fit in the healthcare, nursing, domestic work, and caregiving sector. In terms of professions, Filipinas are also expected to be breadwinners of the family, that it resulted in many Filipinas to pursue education and jobs that have certain opportunities and job security, in which Arts and Theatre fall in the opposite.
In terms of Sports, the Filipino culture of gender-inequality has become a barrier to many Filipino women to participate in sport activities. A film de Lara produced in 2018 a comedy with magic realism, Good Girls Don’t, which narrates a young Filipino-Canadian girl’s dreams of basketball and her defiance against the common misconceptions that girls who play sports will turn into a boy.
Good Girls Don’t won 14 festival prizes, including the 2016 MPPIA Award, a production grant at the Whistler Film Festival. Some of the awards the film received since its release include the 2019 Matrix Award at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival, the 2018 Best
Director Award at the Broad Humor Film Festival, and the 2019 Best Comedy and Best Screenplay Awards at the Asians on Film Festival.
Recently, Good Girls Don’t has been picked by CBC and will air on Canadian Reflections in May 2021. For show times and more information, http://goodgirlsdontmovie.com
When Ana de Lara was 25 years old, she was diagnosed with lupus and needed to take time off from acting. She was bed-ridden and thought she would not be able to be back to performing again. It was a very aggressive and debilitating illness that almost took her life four times.
Thankfully, de Lara survived. She got back into films and television, and also stepped into teaching Acting. Her teaching included many pathways, from teaching Acting in film school, teaching in summer camps, and learning video productions. In between, she began auditioning again for films and television, where she had roles, as well in plays, and improv comedy shows. But for the last 12 years, de Lara has focused, and she now earned over 30 accolades as a screenwriter, director, and producer.
De Lara has also lived in Montreal, QB and Los Angeles, CA. Now, based in Victoria, BC, she also is involved with the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association (VFCA), a non-profit organization established in 1969 that celebrates and promotes Filipino culture in the city.
She also got involved with CineVic, which is an artist-run society supporting filmmakers in Victoria, BC. In the present, de Lara is the Vice-President of Women in Film and Television Vancouver. On March 8, she moderated the 2021 International Women’s Day panel event in the 16th Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.
To date, de Lara is preparing for new endeavors, such as directing the Telefilm Talent to Watch BEST FRIEND ME (co-written by Ana de Lara and Andy Marie), a comedic web about depression and healing.
Another project she has is the film ON THE WINGS OF SORROW which is about a Filipina grandmother, who was forced as a sex slave during WW2 to the Japanese Imperial Army, and is facing the hard choice between her traumatic past or embracing her future son-in-law, who happens to be Japanese.
Congratulations and more power to Ana de Lara!