Yellow Rose Best Narrative Feature
Eva Noblezada is undocumented Filipina Rose Garcia who seeks out her aunt played by Lea Salonga. Screengrab from Yellow Rose trailer.

Yellow Rose, the Filipino-American film starring Broadway stars Lea Salonga, Eva Noblezada, and Princess Punzalan, has won the 39th annual Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF39) Audience Awards.

The HIFF39 Audience Awards, presented by Hawaii News and announced on November 20, named the multi-award-winning indie film by writer-director Diane Paragas as one of the three winners of the audience votes.

Yellow Rose was awarded Best Narrative Feature for the immigration-themed film directed by the documentary filmmaker that tells the story of Rose Garcia, an undocumented 17-year-old Filipina dreaming of leaving her Texas town to pursue country music, but faces threats of deportation back to the Philippines when her mom is suddenly captured by ICE agents. Terrified, Rose (Eva Noblezada) flees to Austin and embarks on a musical journey of self-discovery.

Princess Punzalan is Rose’s mom, Priscilla, who is in the United States to pursue the American dream.

Lea Salonga plays Rose’s aunt who is faced with a family dilemma as she struggles to provide care for Rose.

Yellow Rose is Tony-nominated Eva Noblezada’s debut film after starring in musical theater’s Miss Saigon in the role of Kim which was originated by Tony-winner Lea Salonga.

The film is described by Anderson Le on the HIFF39 site as “Inspired by the music of country musicians like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Willie Nelson, the original composition accompanied by Noblezada’s captivating voice becomes the soundtrack of Rose’s wanderings akin to country westerns or ‘musicals’.”

Yellow Rose, a story about an undocumented family’s struggle to stay together despite the intervention of immigration authorities, is also director Diane Paragas’ debut feature film. The Filipino-American filmmaker, who grew up in Texas after her family migrated to the United States during the martial law years in the Philippines, is best known in New York for her documentaries.

“To say that this film’s release happening at a time where immigration policy is threatened by this current administration is an understatement. YELLOW ROSE is not just a Filipino—hyphen—American story. It is a story that can only be told in America. And what’s more American than a country western?” writes Le.

Yellow Rose was first screened at the HIFF39 on November 16 and will again be screening on November 21 at the Waimea Theater.

Yellow Rose was nominated for the HIFF39 Kau Ka Hōkū Filmmaker Award.

The film has three Best Feature awards, one each from the Toronto Reel Asian film festival, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, and from the Vancouver Asian Film Festival.

Eva Noblezada just picked up a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album together with cast of Hadestown, the same category for which Lea Salonga and the cast of Once On This Island was nominated in the 2019 Grammys.

SEND congratulations in the comments below to the team of Yellow Rose for their winning streak in international film festivals!

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