Lingua Franca
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    Lingua Franca

    Directed by

    USA, Philippines


    94 min

    • English
    • Russian
    • Tagalog
    • Cebuano


    Venice Giornate Degli Autori

    An undocumented Filipina immigrant paranoid about deportation works as a caregiver to a Russian-Jewish grandmother in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. When the American man she’s secretly paying for a green card marriage backs out, she becomes involved with a slaughterhouse worker who is unaware that she’s transgender.



    Isabel Sandoval
    Eamon Farren
    Ivory Aquino
    Pj Boudousque
    Lev Gorn
    Lynn Cohen
    Isabel Sandoval
    Isaac Banks
    Isabel Sandoval
    Teresa Barrozo

    Director's Statement

    Lingua Franca is a narrative feature about a transgender Filipina immigrant, written and directed by a transgender Filipina immigrant. It’s both exhilarating and nerve-wracking for me to say that. It isn’t often that minority filmmakers like me are given the platform to tell stories about my own community, and that’s why I feel enormous responsibility to tell the story with candor and compassion. I’ve seen a few Filipino friends – all breadwinners of their families in the Philippines – make sacrifices and tough, ethically dubious choices (like practically buying a marriage-based green card as Olivia in my screenplay does). They’re resigned to the fact that the American Dream comes with a steep price. Meanwhile, as a transwoman, I’ve experienced firsthand the differences in how men and women are treated. I also happen to be a woman of color, and a migrant worker, making my situation more complex. Olivia and I aren’t the same person but, drawing on personal experience, I do my best to make Olivia as layered and nuanced as I can. I’d like to think that my first-person perspective gives Lingua Franca a lived-in authenticity. Finally, I strongly believe that art and cinema must be equal to the challenges of our time, especially in such a politically turbulent climate.

    Isabel Sandoval

    Isabel Sandoval

    USA, Philippines

    Every image or sound is a vessel for emotion: rapture, despair, sensuousness, enchantment, a combination of these. That makes cinema a kind of legerdemain: the art of sculpting such seemingly artificial elements to create a singular, genuine emotional experience in the viewer.

    An emerging auteur recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as a "rarity among the young generation of Filipino filmmakers for her muted, serene aesthetic", Isabel Sandoval is a US-based filmmaker who has written and directed three features. Her debut, SEÑORITA (2011), competed in the Concorso Cineasti del presente at the 2011 Locarno FF. Her follow-up, APPARITION (2012), competed in the New Currents section at the 2012 Busan IFF. Widely considered a modern Philippine classic APPARITION is regularly programmed in retrospectives of Filpino cinema alongside works by Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza. It will screen as part of Locarno 2020's Open Doors screenings.

    Her next film LINGUA FRANCA (2019), starring Eamon Farren (Twin Peaks: The Return), premiered at the Venice IFF. Cahiers Du Cinéma praised its melding of political impulses with true romanticism as being "rare in contemporary cinema". LINGUA FRANCA has been acquired in North America, France amongst other territories. Other festivals include BFI London, Vancouver, Stockholm, Hamburg, Goteborg, Thessaloniki, Goa, AFI Fest, Hawaii, Febiofest, Frameline, Outfest and Palm Springs.

    Isabel is currently developing her most ambitious feature, TROPICAL GOTHIC, a 16th-century surrealist drama about the haunting of a Spanish conquistador in the Philippine islands. The project is a 2020 Locarno Open Doors Hub selection. In September 2020, the Indiana Unviersity will present an early-career retrospective of Isabel's work as part of the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker series, which previously invited Pedro Costa, Carlos Reygadas and Claire Denis.

    Selected Filmography