Isabel Sandoval (2023-24)

A photograph of Isabel Sandoval standing near a window. She wears a striped shirt.
Photograph by ©Emilio Madrid.

US-based, Philippine-born Isabel Sandoval has emerged as “one of the most exciting and multitalented filmmakers on the indie scene with a bold approach to cinematic style,” according to The Criterion Collection. Meanwhile, The Museum of Modern Art has recognized her as a “rarity among the young generation of Filipino filmmakers.” She has directed three feature films. Her debut, Señorita, premiered at Locarno. Her critically acclaimed third feature, Lingua Franca, premiered in Venice and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. She starred in the César Award-winning short film Maria Schneider, 1983, directed by Elisabeth Subrin.

She has directed for television, including the acclaimed limited series Under The Banner of Heaven starring Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington and The Summer I Turned Pretty. Sandoval is developing her fourth feature, Tropical Gothic, which won a development prize at the 2021 Berlinale. In 2022, she was invited to join the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), “having demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in the field of theatrical motion pictures.”

She is the 2023-24 Artist-in-Residence at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.

Artist’s Statement

A still from Isabel Sandoval's short film, Shangri La.

What does it mean to be a diasporic Philippine-born filmmaker? How does that influence one’s subjectivity, ideological or political concerns, and aesthetic sensibility? After uprooting myself and immigrating to the United States fifteen years ago and completing three dramatic features, I continue to grapple with said roots–and a fraught, ambivalent relationship with my birth country. 

Dichotomy is the defining feature of my protagonists, who tend to be either disempowered or pushed to the fringes. My fictional avatars are vagrants, spiritual or geopolitical, denizens traversing two worlds yet tethered to neither. Nonetheless, this feeling of bifurcation–yet another facet of ‘other-ness’ that may be added to what I already contend with–doesn’t compromise or diminish my artistic expression. Quite the opposite. It is a maelstrom of creative inspiration, a galvanizing force for an artist in flux.

A tremendous honor, the residency arrives at a pivotal juncture in my evolution as a filmmaker. A singular aesthetic has emerged in my work–a political impulse merged with a style that is lyrical, sensual, poetic. My style evolved as a result of experimentation and artistic risk-taking, something that I want to take to more ambitious and radical heights in two new features, Tropical Gothic and Underworld, my focus projects for the residency.

After all, the most transgressive thing I can do as a diasporic artist is to defy the supposed boundaries of cinema to create something bold, original, and transcendent.

Isabel Sandoval, Artist-in-Residence

Message from A/P/A

Isabel Sandoval is an award-winning, Philadelphia-based, Filipina filmmaker and actor, whose life and work have crossed borders in novel and important ways. Sandoval has called cinema “a gesture of empathetic imagination” and her films have been described as exhibiting a “muted, serene aesthetic.” Focusing on the theme “Learning as We Go,” we at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU look in the coming year to explore the many forms and avenues education can take, as a response to the many attacks on critical race theory, affirmative action, diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts, and academic freedom that face scholars, teachers, and students in our current moment, as well as to attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and healthcare. We take much inspiration from Sandoval’s body of work, which asks us to see, and learn from, the histories and contemporary lives of immigrant laborers, LGBTQ+ folk, and colonized peoples in an entirely new, provocative, and compassionate manner. We are honored to have Isabel Sandoval join us as the 2023-24 Artist-in-Residence.

Crystal Parikh, Director


Artist-in-Residence Welcome Event: Isabel Sandoval on Migrant Asian Cinema
Wednesday, September 27, 7:00 p.m.
Details & Registration

In Conversation: Isabel Sandoval & Clint Ramos
Monday, October 16, 6:00 p.m.
Details & Registration

In Her Own Words: Isabel Sandoval
Tuesday, February 6, 7:00 p.m.
Details & Registration