Early on in “Yellow rose, “A drama about a Filipino teenager named Rosario” Rose “Garcia, Rose (Eva Noblezada) is browsing the jukebox at Broken Spoke, an old-school Texan country music bar. An elderly white man walks up to her and points out something about the Willie Nelson song that she has in mind. Rose, himself a hardcore country fan, promptly trains him in his trivia.
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“That’s impressive,” replies the man. “From someone like you.”
Rose smiles. “Well there are all kinds of fans.”
The man is Dale Watson (as himself), an icon of the Austin country scene. As the events of “Yellow Rose” unfold, Watson and a group of White allies help Rose find her voice. Watson even becomes a father figure to Rose. But this exchange, at which Watson is amused, that “someone like her” – i. H. A brown girl – could ever know about country music, never comes up again.
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This is the confusing logic of this first narrative feature of the documentary Diane Paragas. At first glance it is a drama about a girl who fights against racism and finds her way around her identity: she and her mother (Princess Punzalan) are undocumented immigrants, and they have to decide whether they want to continue avoiding ICE in the small town of Texas or return to the Philippines. But “Yellow Rose” has blindly relied on its protagonist on white people to an extent that expands their credibility.
Her love interest – and the only other essential teenage character in the film – is Elliot (Liam Booth), the harmlessly cute white boy who works in the music business. Her mentor is Watson, who started their relationship with something racist. After running out of her house, Rose quickly gives up staying with her mother’s childhood friend (Lea Salonga) and turned to Jolene (Libby Villari), the owner of the Broken Spoke, for help. Rose has never spoken to this proud white Texan, but she immediately tells her that she is undocumented.
In a particularly annoying scene, Rose is even spared by an ambivalent, white ICE agent.
The white rescuer trope is hardly a new concept in movie reviews, but white rescuer films tend to focus on white protagonists who run into downtrodden black and brown pals – Sandra Bullock in the “The blind side, ” Hilary Swank in the “Freedom Writer, ” Viggo Mortensen in the “Green book. “Yellow Rose” seems to be a particularly disturbing addition because the Filipino protagonist is actively seeking white, mostly male, help and no other options are offered to her in the world of film.
Imagine how much more nuanced Rose’s story could be if her love interest was a person of color or if that ICE agent scene – if any – took place between two non-white characters. The film would feel even more three-dimensional if her country mentor were simply a woman or some kind of white outsider. It would certainly be less offensive to see our protagonist – again an undocumented woman who is actively pursued by ICE – singing songs with lines like “The skin I live in doesn’t feel at home for me” in harmony said the mentor.
Despite the way some of them are staged, the film’s musical performances are by far its greatest asset. (And despite the problem he poses as a character in the film, almost all of his standout original songs were written or co-written by Dale Watson.) Leading actress Eva Noblezada, best known for having two Tony nominations before age 24, is an amazing one Singer, and she gives her voice a charming, partonesque warble for the role. While she isn’t the best choice for the protagonist of this quiet film – her dramatic choices in the more serious scenes would undoubtedly play better on stage – she is clearly most at home when she sings.
“Yellow Rose” sounds and looks beautiful. camera operator August Thurmer expertly illuminates each shot and shrinks the many intimate moments of the film for maximum tenderness. The soundtrack will be a must on the debut. But the content in his heart does the viewer and especially his protagonist a disservice. As the script flattens Rose through a series of bizarre, comfortable narrative choices, she becomes less and less understandable. [C]