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Filipina led ‘Lingua Franca’ by Isabel Sandoval nominated in Spirit Awards

The Filipina-directed film ‘Lingua Franca’ has reached global audiences and critical acclaim — securing yet another nomination for a prestigious award.

Since its premiere in Italy last 2019, Isabel Sandoval’s story of an undocumented trans Filipina immigrant continues to earn international recognition. ‘Lingua Franca’ was recently nominated for the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards, the very same program that honored other Asian films like ‘Parasite’ and ‘The Farewell’.

Historically known to be held on the day before the Oscars, the awards show often predicts how the films could perform with the Academy. Among some of the winners that went on to receive Best Picture at the Academy Awards are ‘Black Swan’, ’12 Years a Slave’, ‘Birdman’ and ‘Moonlight’. While the nominations have yet to be released for the 2021 Oscars, the future of Filipino narratives like ‘Lingua Franca’ are definitely promising.

Isabel Sandoval's 'Lingua Franca' nominated in 2021 Independent Spirit Awards for John Cassavetes Award

‘Lingua Franca’ will be competing for the John Cassavetes Award. The category is specifically for films with a budget of less than $500,000. The recipients of this award typically go on to win bigger accolades later on in their career, like the Safdie brothers (Uncut Gems), and Dee Rees (Mudbound). Ava DuVernay (Selma), who distributed ‘Lingua Franca’ and brought it to Netflix, was also a recipient of the John Cassavetes Award in 2012.


Isabel Sandoval is making big strides as an openly trans filmmaker and actress of color. The Cebu-born writer and director has garnered several distinctions for ‘Lingua Franca’ prior to its Spirit Awards nomination — including a Special Jury prize at the Molodist International Film Festival in Ukraine. The film marks as her third feature.

‘Lingua Franca’ had a limited run in the Philippines last year via Cinema ’76 Film Society’s streaming service. While it is available on Netflix for the United States, it has not yet been included in our local catalog.


The ceremony of the 36th Independent Spirit Awards will be held on April 22, 2021.


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