NY-based Cebuano gets slot in Locarno
Filmmaker-actor Vincent Sandoval says the transgender character he plays in his feature film “Señorita” is loosely based on Jane Fonda’s “vulnerable yet steely” hooker role in “Klute.”
“Señorita,” which is competing in the Filmmakers of the Present section of this year’s Locarno (Switzerland) fest, is an expansion of his earlier short of the same title. “Señorita” the short film is pretty well-traveled—screened in Cannes, Vancouver, San Francisco and Amsterdam, among other major cities.
“We just received another invite for the short, from the Copenhagen Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Denmark in October,” Sandoval related in an e-mail from New York, where he lives.
He replied to initial viewers’ feedback: “I made the short primarily to raise funds for the feature and assure investors that I hadn’t lost my mind for wanting to write, direct and play the lead role of a transgender prostitute in my first movie.” Sandoval portrays a tranny who turns a new leaf, becomes guardian to a child and gets entangled in small-town politics.
“Mainstream Filipino films almost always reduce transgender characters into caricatures: swishy, screaming faggots with nothing better to do than chase boys,” he pointed out. “My film is transgressive because it attempts to subvert this small-minded perception…by presenting a psychologically complex individual.”
Sandoval returned to his home province of Cebu to make his debut. “Cebu was perfect…because it was home,” he said. “We auditioned the rest of the key roles there. We had a much smaller pool to work with, but we ultimately landed the right actors.”
Sandoval is thrilled about Locarno. “It has thrust the film into a whole different realm of visibility,” he said. “Locarno is known for discovering new talent and being auteur-driven. It’s credited for introducing Stanley Kubrick, Gus Van Sant and our very own Brillante Mendoza (who won the Golden Leopard for “Masahista” in 2005) to the world.”
Sandoval said Locarno is “an affirmation…that I’m trudging in the right direction…There’s a little more swagger to my step now.” Being a Filipino filmmaker in New York could have its ups and downs, he said, but he focuses on the positive: “Since it’s a cultural smorgasbord, New York has helped me flourish. Being Filipino has certainly thrown my unique background into sharp relief. And the fresher and more original the ideas you bring to the table, the more interesting you become, both as an individual and a storyteller.”
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