This upcoming Saturday, Sunset Stories will finally be having our New York City premiere when it plays The New York International Latino Film Festival. This continues our run of festivals that started at SXSW, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Outfest. It’s been amazing to see how well the film has been received and how diverse the audiences have been. I think that’s kind of a rare achievement and speaks to our intentions in making the film in the first place.
I interviewed our wonderful lead actress Monique Gabriela Curnen, also a long standing member of the YOMYOMF family, on how the journey of Sunset Stories has been thus far.
What drew you to working on Sunset Stories?
I was drawn to the prospect of playing a flawed heroine, a woman who has to learn how she’s getting in her own way in an effort to control every outcome around her. I think she is a great example of how we sometimes cling to certain ideas or practices because they help us feel secure, but they might also be getting in the way of our opportunity to live deeper, more vulnerable, challenging, scary and fun lives. I was also drawn to walking in the shoes of someone who gets to deal with old baggage head-on. May gets the chance to clear up a major falling-out with someone she loved – we don’t always get those opportunities in life.
You’re a part of the YOMYOMF family and have worked with Sung Kang previously. He cited that one of the reasons he wanted to dive into Sunset Stories was to work with you again. How was it working with him this time? Did knowing him so well help the process? How so?
I only took the part so I could score a guest gig on Sung’s new show “Mandarin Time.”…..just playin’. Sung is a delight to work with – he’s a grounded person with so much heart. He brings those qualities to all his characters, together with lovely dimensions of vulnerability and humor. Knowing him did help the process. There’s a lot of trust there, which gives even more freedom to play. It’s a great treat when you get to work with a friend who’s so talented, and who cares deeply about the quality of the story and the performance. Plus Sung is always full of surprises, which makes living the moments with him a fun adventure.
You’ve joined the diverse festival screenings starting from SXSW to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Outfest, and now the HBO New York Latino Film Festival…how have the different audience receptions been?
I don’t think that the audience receptions have differed that greatly. Certainly at Outfest, it felt more like a family atmosphere because so much of the production’s support network was there. It was great to feel like we were at your family or college reunion, where folks were so eager to see it, and proud of what you’ve achieved. But across the board, at all the screenings, I love that people respond to the great humor in the film. And everyone seems to respond to our diverse ensemble. The Q&A’s consistently show an interest in the diversity of the characters and their intertwining narratives.
What are your thoughts on the state of diversity in film today?
I think there are interesting and exciting changes afoot in film and television – perhaps even more in television. Slowly but surely, there are more lead roles for characters of diverse backgrounds. There are some layered, complex characters out there. I’m also excited to see what folks like Eva Longoria, Justin Lin and Idris Elba do as they walk the path of producing more.
You can catch Monique Gabriela Curnen in the New York City Premiere of Sunset Stories this Saturday, August 18th, at the Clearview Chelsea Cinemas – part of the NYC Latino Film Festival! Get your tickets here.
Also Monique and Andrea Sixtos will take part in NYLIFF Panel: The Changing Face of Latinas in Media. Thursday, Aug. 16th, 5-7pm @ Macys Herald Square, 9th Floor. For more info.