|The “big break” for both Eva Noblezada, left, and Lea Salonga was in playing Kim in ‘Miss Saigon.’|
The spark that was lit with Crazy Rich Asians continues to send its embers throughout the movie industry as projects with Asian and Asian American protagonists or themes gain interest in film making world.
One of those CRA embers may help the production of Yellow Rose, an independent feature starring Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada will headline alongside Tony winner and Miss Saigon veteran Lea Salonga and country music star Dale Watson.
“With the increased demand for diverse Asian American stories in Hollywood, I can’t think of a better time to develop this film,” said director/producer Diane Paragas, “Yellow Rose has been in development for over 15 years, and we’ve selected an incredibly talented cast to help tell this story.”
The project wrapped filming last month and is now in post-production.
The film follows the tale of Rose, a 17-year-old Filipino American teenager from Texas who dreams of becoming a country music icon. She has to fend for herself, however, when her mother is arrested by ICE, and must choose between following her dreams without her mother or leaving her passions behind. Tony winner Salonga is set to play Rose’s aunt.
Yellow Rose has original music composed and performed by the cast and Paragas. The cast also includes Liam Booth, Gustavo Gomez, Libby Villari, and Princess Punzalan.
The director Paragas was born in Minneapolis but returned to the Philippines when she was a year old. She came back to the US at age four and spent the rest of her youth in Lubbock, Texas, where she studied painting, music and film.
“I am a Filipina American like Rose. When I was 3 years old, my family fled Manila and martial law and ended up in Lubbock, Texas as it was the only place that would take us,” writes Paragas. “I grew up in a fairly racist environment and by the time I was a teenager my only refuge was music. So I formed a punk rock band.
“An actor friend of mine suggested I write a script about my upbringing, but when I first conceived of the script I thought that it would be more compelling if the lead character loved everything about Texas including and most importantly the music. It would be the ultimate unrequited love: to love a place so much that doesn’t love you back. And with the crackdown of immigration in her town, Rose’s very citizenship is questioned as well.”
Noblezada, was born in San Diego but moved to North Carolina at an early age. After impressing London audiences for her portrayal of Kim in the London production of Miss Saigon and as Epinomy in Les Misérables, she made her Broadway debut in 2017 reprising her role as Kim, for which she received her Tony nomination.
It is not the first time that Noblezada and Salonga worked togehter. The two Filipina singers staged a joint concert at Carnegie Hall in 2016 celebrating the music of Broadway.
Paragas, while known for her commercial work, has done well-received documentaries including Brooklyn Boheme¸ a feature-length documentary about the African American arts movement for Showtime that she made in tandem with writer and critic Nelson George featuring Spike Lee, Chris Rock and Rosie Perez to name a few.
She is also in production for a feature documentary about an wrongfully convicted illegal immigrant called The Three Lives of David Wong.
“To me, commercials, documentaries and narrative films are all about storytelling, ” she says. “I don’t distinguish between them. Whether I’m working with a big crew, a small crew or by myself, it’s all storytelling.”
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