Complications arise when an undocumented Filipino-Muslim caregiver who works for a temperamental aging diva, secretly borrows her glamorous outfits to add pizzazz to his new drag act.
Ibrahim, an undocumented Filipino-Muslim works as a live-in caregiver for a famous aging Filipina diva, Zenaida who suffers from dementia. He harbors aspirations of becoming a drag queen but has not quite figured out his drag persona. Living in Zenaida's mansion, he is constantly surrounded by the glamor of her glory days. Unbeknownst to Zenaida, he secretly borrows pieces from her fabulous wardrobe to add pizzazz to his new drag act. Complications arise when she doesn’t recognize him and discovers him wearing her missing jewelry.
Being a Filipina immigrant, it was important for me as an artist to tell a story that captured and celebrated the Filipino/x/a immigrant experience. I wanted to show the sense of humor that Filipinos employ amidst adversity. I also wanted to make a film that featured Filipino actors playing authentic Filipino characters.
There is a large community of undocumented Filipinos in America and I wanted to shed some light on their experience. I personally know a number of undocumented Filipinos who end up in the caregiving profession. ZENAIDA is inspired by a close friend’s story. He had to flee the Philippines after coming out to his conservative Muslim family.
Although the representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the mainstream media has gotten better, the queer Muslim experience is rarely seen. I chose a Filipino-Muslim protagonist because I wanted to show a part of Filipino culture that is largely underrepresented, even within mainstream Filipino media itself. My character has lost everything because of his sexuality and yet continues to pursue his dream of becoming a drag queen.
With the alarming rise of anti LGBTQIA+ sentiment and legislation, it is more important than ever to tell compassionate stories about the LGBTQIA+ community. The only way to counter prejudice, bigotry, and racism in this world is with compassion.
ZENAIDA is a story about survivors and dreamers. It is about the human spirit’s resilience to continue amidst adversity in pursuit of a dream and a better life.