Frida was the film that made me want to be a filmmaker. It was the film that pushed me to change my career, one that planted a clarion vision in my mind for what powerful, successful, female-driven art could be. By a woman of color, by an immigrant, creating a world that looked the way I saw it. A humane film about art and humanity, helmed by an iconoclast, brought to life by a trailblazer, both women. And it was a big, ambitious film. The hope and the beauty and the power of it. I wrote my application to film school after seeing it.
If I could make just one movie like that, about one subject that meant as much to me— that was all the legacy I wanted out of life. If I could make just one person feel the way that film made me feel: whole, seen, singular. So seeking that story, and learning the craft to tell that eventual story, became my one desire in life.
The sound when your calling calls you, if you’re lucky enough to hear it… god damn. And though it’s been a wayward journey since, I hear it and have followed it, follow it doggedly, still.
But twelve years later, reading the story of how Frida got made… breaks my heart in a year of heartbreaks, for the film and for Salma… and for us.
I had a professor in graduate school tell me he wasn’t inclined to support my work, because I was the type of person “who probably never had to work very hard.” This, while gesturing with his right hand up and down my body.
I met a producer at a party who seemed interested in my short film about Asian fetishism. He cornered me later, wasted, slid his hands on me, said he had a pretty bad case of yellow fever himself.
A film programmer - white, male - emailed to tell me he loved my film (the above-mentioned Asian fetish short) but hated the ending (that they don’t get together). It didn’t seem realistic to him that the Asian female character would not ultimately want this man who objectified her. It rang false to him somehow. But he assured me that if I changed the ending, I would have a place at the festival, maybe even win something. It was that close to being good, he said.
I laughed off the professor. I pushed the producer away. And I didn’t change my ending for the festival programmer. Needless to say I didn’t screen. But in a career and in a field that depends so much on who you know and who supports and champions you… the sum of these indecencies, indignities and devaluations starts to fill in the blank where your art and career are supposed to be.
She thought she was getting a champion. And what she got was a monster. How many women and stories have been silenced by this bait and switch?