“The documentary films I make are just in the matter of things that just happen in my life that I feel like other people can benefit from or other people can relate to and I just make a story out of it,” said filmmaker Drama Del Rosario, whose 2018 documentary, "In This Family," is the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)’s entry into this year’s PBS Short Film Festival.
A decade after being outed as gay by a teacher while growing up in the conservative society of the Philippines, Del Rosario gives a look back at audio recordings he made of his family’s initial reactions in this documentary.
"In This Family" won the Loni Ding Award in Social Issue Documentary at CAAMFest in 2019 and was shortlisted for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Student Film Awards in 2018. Del Rosario was featured by CAAM earlier this year as one of artists who is shaping the future of Asian American storytelling.
In an interview with CAAM from mid-March, Del Rosario described his creative process as allowing for the subject of focus to come to him naturally, whether that be through something he learns about through the news or through a significant event in his own life. The latter is what has worked best for him, for he believes that he has a responsibility to share his story when these kinds of situations happen.
Being in front of the camera and sharing his stories has also been a very therapeutic experience, largely in part to having to contain so many of his thoughts and feelings to himself, while growing up in an environment where not everything he expressed was going to be validated. “Just doing it on camera has been very healing and very helpful for me, to actually give myself permission to voice out things that I have long buried and long repressed because I’ve pretty much been silenced my whole life with the way that I grew up,” he said.
During a Q&A conducted with Del Rosario at CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home for his latest film, "I’m Okay (and Neither Are You)," Del Rosario emphasized why it’s very important for him to include his family and friends in his work, as hard as it was, knowing that other people who they know will see it. “When you have people around you who say, ‘I am happy to be a part of this. I support you for putting yourself on camera,’ that is a very good feeling,” he said.
Del Rosario also found that by centering "In This Family" on his relationships with his mother and father during a pivotal moment in his life, it gave him the opportunity to take a step back and really see how much they’ve all grown since then. In a recent statement given ahead of the PBS Short Film Festival, “When you grow up surrounded by homophobia, it’s so easy to get stuck with a horrible impression of your parents,” he explained. “I’ve realized in my adulthood that my parents had a lot of growing up and changing to do, and making this documentary helped me realize how much work they had put into doing that.”
His hope is that parents who see this film go away with understanding just how important it is to create a safe and loving home for their child. “The best feedback that I get are from parents who tell me that this film has changed their perspective on their own children. Letting go and being open to change is something difficult to do especially within traditional Asian norms, but I’ve seen how much it has helped every individual member of my own family.”
The PBS Short Film Festival will be held from July 13-24. "In This Family" is eligible for votes, and social media likes and views will count toward considering the winners for this year’s festival.