7 Filipino filmmakers join Lady Gaga and Adele in Oscars’ Academy Class of 2019

Seven filmmakers with Filipino heritage were invited to be members of the prestigious film institution – Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Photo credits to the owners.

Seven Filipino filmmakers have been invited to join the Oscars’ Academy Class of 2019, adding to the roster of Filipinos making their names in the international scene.

These 7 internationally-recognized film directors, editors, animators, and producers trace their roots to Filipino heritage that has been showcased in various festivals through award-winning films.

The Filipino passion in filmmaking and storytelling unarguably shine on the world stage, proving the Philippines a world class film producer that can go head to head against film giants abroad.

It comes as no surprise then that 7 more Filipino filmmakers were invited to be among the 842 individuals from 59 countries composing the Academy’s Class of 2019.

These 7 individuals – 4 directors and 3 short film and feature animation creators – are now members of the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences along with fellow Filipinos, Brillante Mendoza and Lav Diaz, who were inducted into the Academy’s Class of 2017.

The Academy has made efforts over the years to champion diversity in its membership. The 2019 report indicate 50% are women and 16% are people of color. Oscar winners Lady Gaga, Adele Adkins, and Annie Lennox, and among the celebrated 21 Oscar winners and 82 Oscar nominees of the newest members of The Academy.

Good News Pilipinas presents these 7 Filipino filmmakers from the United States, Canada, and the Philippines who were invited to become members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:


The Academy credited Baby Ruth Villarama
Baby Ruth Villarama is credited by The Academy for her Sunday Beauty Queen and Jazz in Love. Credits to Baby Ruth Villarama

Baby Ruth Villarama is an award-winning writer, producer and director best known for the documentary film “Sunday Beauty Queen,” a Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 entry and a story of Filipino domestic helpers in HongKong and the Filipino pageant culture thriving even abroad. Villarama also directed “Little Azkals” which tells the story of dreams of young Filipinos who want to become members of the country’s national football team Philippine Azkals.

In 2018, Villarama was chosen as a recipient of the Global Alumni Awards given by the British Council, and was one of the key speakers in the Visayas leg of Sandaan, the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Philippine Cinema.

Villarama said she believes that Filipino presence in the Academy would be a great opportunity to show Hollywood what Filipino filmmakers can offer.

“The presence of a more diverse voice in the Academy of Motion Pictures is a win-win change both for Hollywood and the Philippines, only if both national powers would know how to maximize this opportunity. The inclusion of new voices can now champion diversity, inspire each other to discover new ways of telling stories, and strengthen ties in doing more international co-productions. I deeply believe the Philippines is ready to inspire Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar Wai can attest to this). I hope Hollywood is ready to look at the Philippines as the new treasure box for stories and talents,” Baby Ruth Villarama said in interview with GMA Network.


The Academy credited Ditsi Carolino
Ditsi Carolino is credited by The Academy for Hindered Land and Bunso. Credits to Ditsi Carolino.

Human rights advocate and filmmaker Ditsi Carolino has been writing, directing, and producing documentaries since the 1990’s.

Carolino, a Sociology graduate of University of the Philippines, is known for her thought-provoking films that depict the struggles and challenges of the poorest and lowest members of the society such as the child laborers in “Minsan lang sila bata” released in 1996.

Carolino’s documentary “Bunso (The Youngest)” released in 2015 was one of the 18 Filipino films given a spotlight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017.


The Academy credits Lisa Valencia Svensson
The Academy credits Lisa Valencia-Svensson for Call Her Ganda and Herman’s House. Credits to Hot Docs

Lisa Valencia-Svesson is known for her works such as “Call Her Ganda” in 2018, “P.O.V.” in 2013, “Herman’s House” and “The World Before Her” in 2012 and “Resilience Stories of Single Black Mothers” in 2010.

Lisa figured out that she loved producing documentary films in her early 30’s while working in bookkeeping and finance. Growing up in Canada, Lisa realized she had little connection to the Philippines and so she spent time reconnecting to her heritage. The producer and production manager has a deep understanding of the importance of representation, human rights, women empowerment, LGBTQ rights, and anti-racism.

Lisa views her inclusion in the Academy as someone with Filipino heritage as a push towards being a voice for marginalized sectors and proper representation.

“The Philippines was one of the few colonies of the USA. So to have Filipino filmmakers infiltrating one of the most iconic American institutions feels like a crucial way to start to reclaim our voice and to reshape the narrative around who Filipinos were and are in relation to our former colonial masters,” Lisa Valencia-Svesson said.

4P.J. RAVAL, Director

Academy notes PJ Raval
The Academy notes P.J. Raval’s works in Call Her Ganda and Before You Know It. Credits to P.J. Raval.

P.J. Raval’s film credits include “Call Her Ganda” in 2018, “Before You Know It” in 2013, “Trouble the Water” in 2008, and “Room” in 2005.

The film director, cinematographer, and producer treats his inclusion in the Academy as a huge honor and accomplishment, especially for someone who was born to immigrant parents and grew up in a white conservative town.

“That was definitely not in the cards growing up, but perhaps my personal experience is what drove me to become one — and the desire to tell stories that I feel are overlooked. So to be recognized by the Academy which is the top film institution is almost unreal,” said Raval.

Raval is hoping that it would mark the start of the widest spread of awareness of Filipino history, culture, and presence in the United States.

“I hope our inclusion into the Academy will further support the Filipino community both here and abroad as many of us are making work and having discussions to highlight our community,” filmmaker P.J. Raval shared.

5BOBBY PONTILLAS, Short Film and Feature Animation

Oscar nominated Bobby Pontillas
Oscar-nominated Bobby Pontillas is credited by The Academy for One Small Step and Moana. Credits to Taiko Studios.

Filipino-American animator Bobby Pontillas recently received his first Oscar nomination for his animated short film “One Small Step,” which tells the story of a young Chinese-American girl named Luna who dreams of becoming an astronaut. His creation won several awards and accolades from 26 different film festivals.

Pontillas serves as director of Taiko Studios and had worked with various films in the past years such as “Zootopia,” “Big Hero 6,” “Rio,” “Wreck It Ralph,” “Tangled,” “Frozen,” and more.

Now that he is part of the Academy, the Filipino-American writer and animator sees his inclusion as a platform of showcasing and promoting Filipino stories.

“My life’s mission moving forward is to bring more Filipino stories to the screen. So hopefully our influence will be increased to help make that happen,” Pontillas said in the GMA Network report.

6JOSIE TRINIDAD, Short Film and Feature Animation

Academy credits for Josie Trinidad
The Academy credits Josie Trinidad for her work with Ralph Breaks the Internet and Zootopia. Credits to Josie Trinidad.

Josie Trinidad is a Filipino-American writer, animator, and actress who traces her parental heritage to Laguna. She is known for her works with “Ralph Breaks the Internet” in 2018, “Zootopia” in 2016, “Big Hero 6” in 2014, and “Wreck-it-Ralph” in 2012.

Trinidad was praised by co-director Rich Moore as “incredibly talented.” Trinidad was the film co-head of “Zootopia” which was hailed as the Best Animated Feature film in the 2017 Golden Globe Awards.

Josie Trinidad’s film credits include being the story artist for Disney animation films such as Tangled, The Princess and the Frog, and The Ballad of Nessie. Josie Trinidad also provided the voices of the Zootopia landlady, Wreck-It Ralph’s Jubileena Bing Bing, and an additional voice for Big Hero 6.

The multi-talented Filipino-american film worker sees the Academy invitation to Filipino filmmakers as an inspiration to Filipino artists to strive more in presenting Filipino stories to the world.

“It’s always great to see more Filipinos in Hollywood, and I hope it encourages aspiring Filipino artists and filmmakers to continue to tell our stories,” Josie Trinidad said.

7TREVOR JIMENEZ, Short Films and Feature Animation

Oscar-nominated Trevor Jimenez is credited for Weekends and Key Lime Pie. Credits to Trevor Jimenez

Filipino-Canadian Trevor Jimenez’s film credits include animated films “Coco” in 2017, “Finding Dory” in 2016, and “Rio” in 2011.

Jimenez’ short film “Weekends,” a depiction of his childhood memories, has received awards, recognitions, and nominations from various award-giving bodies such as the Jury Award for a Short Film and the Audience Award for a Short Film from the 2018 International Animation Film Festival, and the Best Animated Short nomination at the 2019 Annie Awards.

Trevor says he is happy and proud after receiving an invitation from the Academy. the Pixar animator said he hoped to be invited after he received an Oscar nomination for his animated short film “Weekends.”

“I was hoping I would get the invite after the experience of being nominated. Looking forward to attending some of the member events and taking part in the voting process for next year’s Academy Awards,” Trevor said.

“I’m proud to represent Filipinos in the Academy! Nice to see some other Filipinos also get the invite this year,” the Filipino-Canadian animator said.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the annual Oscars, welcomed the new members of 2019 which now include Filipinos Baby Ruth Villarama, Bobby Pontillas, Ditsi Carolino, Josie Trinidad, Lisa Valencia-Svensson, P.J. Raval, Trevor Jimenez.

SEND congratulations in the comments below for the Filipinos in the Academy Class of 2019!

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Atom Pornel is a tourism and broadcast journalism major who loves local art and heritage and is passionate about anything good news from the Philippines. Born from a Bicolano-Odionganon father and Waray mother, he has grown appreciation of our diversity as nation.