Filipino-American Janice Villarosa’s “Shunned,” a documentary depicting the discrimination and other struggles the transgender community faces, has been touring film festivals abroad.
“The journey has been difficult. I wanted to wave the white flag a number of times. But I cannot give up. I made a promise and I always try to keep my word. Now that the film is finished, my work has just begun,” Villarosa said.
Last October, the documentary was screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival and was nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award.
“We had two almost packed screenings and the audience was engaged and had lots of questions,” Villarosa recalled.
A month after its screening in Hawaii, “Shunned” was then shown at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in Florida and won the Spirit of Independence Award.
And earlier this year, the documentary was also screened at the Historic Waimes Theater in Hawaii and at the Beloit International Film Festival in Wisonsin.
“Last year, we had a screening at the Cebu International Documentary Film Festival… But I really want to show it in Manila where most of the cast members, including Mimi Juareza, live,” Villarosa said.
Juareza reccently won a best actor award in Cinemalaya for his role in “Quick Change,” an independent film about a lesbian struggling as a mother and wife.
Villarosa has been thankful for all the recognition her documentary has been gaining. She looked forward to more screenings where she could further send the message of antidiscrimination towards transgenders.
“They inspire me… In spite of what they have been through, they still managed to pick themselves up and keep going,” Villarosa said. “I promised the cast that if they use this film as their sounding board, I will make sure that they will be heard.”
With a deep advocacy for the transgenders, Villarosa has been frequently asked if she was a transgender herself.
“I do not mind at all… I understand it’s natural for people to wonder because I am so passionate about this cause,” she said. “People would size me up and look at me from head to toe. The most jarring reaction was from a guy who demanded that I drop my pants.”
Experiencing a demeaning treatment herself, all the more Villarosa sought to raise awareness. She also hoped that the case of Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman who was allegedly murdered for her sexual preference, would not reoccur.
“My advocacy is antidiscrimination and antihate crime,” Villarosa said.