Horror, Heritage, and Hollywood: How Kristine Gerolaga is Flipping the Script on Filipino Tales

Kristine Gerolaga, a Filipina American actor and filmmaker, is a beacon of resilience, creativity, and authenticity in the world of cinema. Hailing from Vallejo, Kristine's journey has been shaped by diverse experiences, from her early days in color guard to her explorations into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. With a passion for blending heritage and modern pop culture, she crafts stories that not only resonate with audiences but also challenge conventional narratives. As she continues to make waves with her thought-provoking works, including the critically acclaimed "Mosquito Lady," we at Oodaalolly sat down with Kristine to delve deeper into her inspirations, aspirations, and the future of Filipina-American storytelling. Join us as we embark on this intimate journey with a creator who is truly shaping the cinematic landscape.

Headshot by: LESLIE ALEJANDRO for her series in celebration of Filipino American History Month

Jeremy: Kristine, it's an honor to have you with us. First and foremost, as we sit down during Filipino American History Month, how significant is this period to you both personally and professionally?

Kristine: I’m so grateful that we have a month dedicated to the history, contributions, and struggles of Filipino Americans because growing up, there were just so many things I didn’t know about. It’s because of FAHM that it’s become a lifelong project to learn more about the history that’s been kept from us as well as the ongoing impact of U.S. imperialism on Filipinos at home, in America, and around the world. Professionally, Filipino American History Month is also such an exciting time to learn about the works of Fil-Ams today and continue sharing the work that I’m doing as a Fil-Am actor and filmmaker.

Jeremy: The blending of heritage and modern pop culture is evident in your works. How do you approach incorporating Filipino folklore in contemporary settings, particularly in your latest short "Mosquito Lady"?

Kristine: So, Mosquito Lady is my reaction to the worsening state of reproductive rights. I wanted to tell a story featuring the manananggal, a vampiric, fetus-eating creature from Philippine folklore that endures excruciatingly painful werewolf-like transformations, to highlight the consequences of restricting access to abortion and sexual health education, and to use it as a metaphor for the horrors of losing bodily autonomy. What’s happening is real-life horror, which is why I thought a horror film was appropriate for telling this story and I also wanted to join other Filipino filmmakers in sharing our folklore with American audiences.

Jeremy: Being both in front of and behind the camera, do you feel these dual roles inform each other? How has your experience as an actor influenced your directing style and vice-versa?

Kristine: Acting and directing definitely inform each other! I think my experience as an actor makes it easier to communicate with my cast when I’m directing. It also gives me the confidence to let my cast have the space to make their choices without needing to micromanage every little detail of their performances. And I would say that my experience as a director makes me more understanding of a character’s purpose in a story, so I’ll never see any part as “insignificant.” Or if a character I play does end up on the cutting floor, I don’t take it personally because the filmmaker’s job is to tell the best story possible and that’s my priority when I’m acting and directing.   

Scene from “Hit or Miss,” Written/Directed by Kristine Gerolaga, Director of Photography: William Green

Jeremy: Diving into the topic of "Mosquito Lady" a bit more, what inspired the story and what do you hope audiences take away from it?

Kristine: The idea for this project came to me around 2015 when I was volunteering as a pro-choice clinic escort and helping patients get from their cars to the clinic doors as safely as possible while anti-choice protesters harassed them from the sidewalks. As time went on, I learned more about the violent policies here in the United States, the Philippines, and around the world that forced desperate people to seek out dangerous abortion methods even if it meant imprisonment or death. I hope that those who watch this short film see it as a cautionary tale about the consequences of how we talk to children about their sexual health and their bodies.

Jeremy: With the buzz around your current and upcoming projects, can you share any tidbits or hints about what fans and audiences can anticipate next?

Kristine: I’d love to share what I’m working on next! Mosquito Lady is actually a short proof of concept for a Filipino horror feature I’m developing called Lamok, which is set in the Philippines and is from the perspective of a woman who is cursed to become a manananggal. I was very fortunate to receive the 2022 Sundance Institute Uprise Grant, which we used to pay for the practical effects to create our manananggal in Mosquito Lady. And this year I’m so excited that both Sundance and now The Asian American Foundation will be supporting the continued development of Lamok through their collab scholarship. I’m also currently working on an anthology feature film called Through the Blinds with six other amazing female filmmakers, which takes place over several decades in the same suburban house. My segment covers the 1950s and is about a housewife who is desperately clinging on to her version of the American dream when a Filipino family moves in across the street.

Jeremy: Lastly, as someone who has consistently championed resilience and authenticity, what's your advice to young, budding creatives, especially from marginalized communities, who are trying to break into the industry?

Kristine: I think the young, budding creatives are already pros at this, but make noise about your work! Share your projects and make it easy for people to find your work. This has been incredibly helpful for getting to the next opportunity. 

Jeremy: Thank you, Kristine, for sharing your insights and journey with us. Your passion, dedication, and commitment to telling authentic and engaging stories inspire many. We're eagerly anticipating your future projects and are confident that your unique perspective will continue to shine a light on the underrepresented voices in the world of cinema.

Kristine: Thank you so much for having me and for what you’re doing to highlight other Filipinos!

In the ever-evolving landscape of cinema, voices like Kristine Gerolaga's are not just refreshing but vital. Her fearless fusion of heritage and horror, personal experiences and profound narratives, gives a platform to stories often left untold. As we celebrate Filipino American History Month and beyond, Kristine's work serves as a potent reminder of the richness of our collective tales and the power they hold.

We at Oodaalolly are not just fans but ardent admirers, eagerly awaiting the next chapter in her cinematic journey. To the future of Filipina-American storytelling, we raise our glasses high, and to Kristine, we say, "Keep shining, keep sharing, and keep surprising us."

To Learn More Visit: https://www.kristinegerolaga.com/

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