by Jim Bea Sampaga
Hawaii-born and raised Filipino American Sienna Aczon debuted her first solo show film “Do You Speak?” at 59E59 Theaters’ East to Edinburgh Goes Virtual Film Festival in New York on Thursday, July 15.
Written, directed, and produced by Aczon, the short film is set in her own bedroom while the script is based off a phone conversation she had with her father.
Aczon’s short film is a love letter to Hawaii, New York, and the Philippines as she explores her heritage as Filipino American. The film is also a homage to her grandfather’s journey as an educator and immigrant. Ultimately, she uses the film as an opportunity to respond to the question: Do You Speak?
When asked about the meaning behind the title, Aczon said it’s the shorter version of “Do you speak Filipino?” and the actual question she refers to in the film. She admits that answering this simple Yes-or-No question has been difficult for her because she can’t speak Filipino.
“There’s more nuance to that ‘No’ – it comes with a bit of insecurity and embarrassment; it comes with regret for refusing to learn Ilocano or Tagalog when I was young; it comes with worry that I will need to defend my ‘Filipino-ness’,” Aczon explained.
“Do You Speak?” fulfills two of Aczon’s long-time goals: to debut a solo show and celebrate her Filipino American heritage. She hopes that she can perform the short film live on stage as intended. Because of the pandemic, she had to adapt it into a short film as a hybrid theatre/film piece.
Aczon humbly asks the Filipino community to support her short film, “Do You Speak?”
“I am humbled and inspired by how resilient and hard-working the Filipino community is. My main hope is for you to be proud of who you are, and I believe that a key to achieving that is through understanding your roots. I encourage you all to have conversations with your parents, grandparents, titas and titos. Listen, really get to know them as people, and learn their stories by heart,” she said.
“I hope others can watch “Do You Speak?” and acknowledge that, while language is certainly important, it is not the only way you can honor your heritage and culture.”
“Do You Speak?” is one of nine short films featured in East to Edinburgh Goes Virtual Festival. The short film is available to stream on-demand until July 25. Tickets are available on 59e59.org/shows/show-detail/east-to-edinburgh-goes-virtual/.
by Jim Bea Sampaga