The X1 International destination is featuring “Dear Thalia,” written, directed and produced by Rex Moribe, in the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival collection. Luckily for us, we had the chance to ask Rex about his inspirations and how his Asian-American heritage impacts his films.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month.
Rex Moribe: “Dear Thalia” is a documentary film of a 3-year-old homeless girl and her family living on the streets of Hawaii.
How did you get into filmmaking?
RM: In the late ’90s I would make bodyboarding (surfing) videos for my friends with two VHS players. I would have never thought it was possible to make films, then I saw “Mallrats” by Kevin Smith and everything changed. I reverse engineered the script to “Clerks” and made my first film, “One Night Many Moments,” with the help of friends from work. It completely flopped and went down in a flame of glory, but I was grateful for the experience and I learned my first and most important lesson: expect criticism, but stay true to oneself.
I put the camera down for years and only when I started to travel did I pick it back up. A friend told me about a video blog called Maestro Knows and that’s when my indie filmmaking took another turn. It inspired me and spiraled into travel vlogs, short stories, 24-hour challenges, anything and everything I could film. This was the creation and start of “Rex Vs.”
What are some films and/or filmmakers who have inspired you?
RM: My inspiration is Kevin Smith. Also, the films I saw as a child have been engraved into my DNA; music montages, inspirational films, coming-of-age stories, stories that would move me, had me in awe or in tears. Films like “Superman,” “The Karate Kid,” “The Goonies,” “Rocky,” “Stand by Me,” etc. The millennials might not think these were amazing films, but when I saw them as a kid, you bet I went looking for maps to find treasure, tried to crane kick my friends and even jumped off my roof with a towel as a cape in an attempt to fly.
These films embody what I love to see and on an unconscious level, films I strive to make. A film that encapsulates all of these qualities is one my favorite films: “Cinema Paradiso.” Lastly, I cannot leave out the amazing writers/directors I adore, like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Jon Favreau, Ryan Coogler and the Duffer brothers.
Do you have a favorite Asian-American film?
RM: If you count “Enter the Dragon,” then hands down that would be it. I am a sucker for Kung Fu films. I love them all. Can we get more Ninja movies, please?
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
RM: Being born and raised in Hawaii with so many different ethnicities, everyone operates on the same wavelengths. I mean, I knew I was Japanese/Filipino-American and that my parents and grandparents were hard workers. They worked extremely hard to ensure we had a better life than them, but aren’t all parents like that? The one thing I do remember is that my parents would say, “You can act crazy and get in trouble in the house, but once you go outside you represent Moribe. Do not shame your name, do not shame your family; honor your name, and honor your family.” In that light, I have strived to honor my family, to honor my name.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian-American cinema?
RM: It would be nice to see an Asian-themed film with Asian actors. We are starting to see a push to get the correct ethnicity in TV and films. We are now getting the token Asian person in film and that’s better than the white-washed-suppose-to-be-Asian person. Also, the medium of film is becoming more and more affordable, so stories being told from Asians and all demographics will be and are being told.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Rex Moribe! Watch “Dear Thalia” in the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival collection on your X1 International destination or with XFINITY Stream this November.
For more Filmmaker Spotlights or Asian-American news and entertainment visit XFINITY Asia.