The short film also features the Italian label’s latest designs
Filipino filmmaker Isabel Sandoval is merging the art of film and fashion with her latest work with Italian fashion house Miu Miu. Dubbed as “Shangri-la,” Miu Miu Women’s Tale #21, is all about the idea of earthly paradise, which for the immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century, “America was the promised Shangri-la.”
Set sometime between 1850 and 1940, the featurette revolves around two farmhands in California, an American and a Filipina, and their hidden romance. During the Great Depression era, the US state has an anti-miscegenation statute that banned interracial marriages, prohibiting the two characters to express their love.
Miu Miu’s spring collection pieces added a dose of fantasy to the character’s dream sequences. While the collection exudes a futuristic vibe from its cut, proportions, and beading, Isabel decided to create the film in a retrospective sense, and in the gaze of a transwoman of color.
“I definitely drew inspiration from the fashion in the Miu Miu lookbook, and how I can do something that is playful and surprising,” she tells L’Officiel USA. “That centerpiece dress where she’s floating in the night sky, I was thinking that seems futuristic, so what would be an offbeat approach to incorporate that into the story. This might look futuristic, but what if the framing story is in the past? When I’m given a particular visual stimulus, I want to play with it and come up with something that seems counterintuitive from what that obviously implies.”
Much like in her previous work “Lingua Franca,” Isabel again demonstrated her affection for presenting female characters with secrets. In the case of the short film “Shangri-la,” she fleshes out these private thoughts in between confessions and firework gazing and through contrasting views of farm life and the beauty of the garments.
“In the case of ‘Shangri-la,’ when we think of the farmers and farm workers during the Great Depression, whether they are white or people with color, we almost always look at them from an economic or political standpoint,” Isabel says in a conversation with Penny Martin, editor in chief of The Gentlewoman magazine. “This was an opportunity for me to explore this Filipina woman’s interior, sensual, and emotional life. Although it started out as a rendezvous between her and her lover, halfway through the film, it becomes purely a rhapsody, an exploration of alternate lives and worlds where she could be truly free and free to love whomever she wants to.”
The first transwoman of color to compete at the Venice Film festival, Isabel, with her 10-minute film, makes another history as she joins Miu Miu Women’s Tales’ line of directors including Agnès Varda, Ava DuVernay, Miranda July, and Mati Diop.
Watch Miu Miu Women’s Tale #21 ‘Shangri-la’ here:
Stills from Miu Miu’s Youtube channel.