November 8, 2019 at 8:28 pm EST | by John Paul King
Groundbreaking trans-directed “Lingua Franca” gets American Premiere
Isabel Sandoval wrote, directed, and stars in “Lingua Franca” (Image courtesy AFI Fest)

“Lingua Franca,” a groundbreaking film by trans woman filmmaker Isabel Sandoval, is getting a North American Premiere.

Sandoval made history earlier this year when the film, her third feature, became the first movie directed and starring a trans woman to be screened in competition at Venice’s Giornate degli Autori Film Festival (Venice Days).

The film is a sensual and provocative drama, in which Sandoval plays an undocumented Filipina, terrified at the prospect of being deported, who cares for an elderly woman in Brooklyn. As she begins to run out of options to obtain a green card, she develops a romantic relationship with the elderly woman’s grandson (Eamon Farren) who is unaware that she’s transgender.

Sandoval, who wrote “Lingua Franca” in addition to directing and acting in it, is a New York-based filmmaker recognized by The Museum of Modern Art, who have citied her “muted, serene aesthetic” as a “rarity among the young generation of Filipino filmmakers.” She worked with an all Filipino producing team (Jhett Tolentino, Carlo Velayo and Darlene Catly Malimas) toensure that she would be allowed to tell an authentic story on her own terms – a narrative feature about a transgender Filipina immigrant, written, directed and starring a transgender Filipina immigrant.

With this film, she became the first trans woman of color to direct and headline a film competing in Venice.

Alongside Sandoval and Farren, “Lingua Franca” also stars Ivory Aquino, PJ Boudousque, Lev Gorn, and Lynn Cohen. Its North American Premiere takes place as part of AFI Fest 2019, the American Film Institute’s annual film festival in Los Angeles.

It screens at the iconic TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood on November 17 – 18; local fans of authentic, queer cinema can find times and tickets here.

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