The films featured on the X1 International destination this October include “I Am a Ghost” by filmmaker H.P. Mendoza in the Asian Horror Films collection. We got the chance to speak with Mendoza about the inspiration behind this horror story and his journey as an Asian-American film writer and director.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!
H.P. Mendoza: “I Am a Ghost” is the story of Emily, a trapped ghost who teams up with Sylvia, a dubious psychic, to find a way out of her own home. As they uncover clues about the past, disturbing revelations and unexpected discoveries make Emily’s escape more complicated than expected.
How did you get into filmmaking?
HM: I got into filmmaking when my father bought me a Super 8 camera in kindergarten. I’d recreate my favorite movies with my stuffed animals. One time, I filmed my Hot Wheels racetrack so I could project the film for my family while I moved the couch around like a motion simulator. In college, I went right back to filming in Super 8. I think that was the last time I literally filmed anything.
What are some films and/or filmmakers that have inspired you?
HM: As a child, I thought “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “Indiana Jones” were the best and everything else was boring. But in high school, I took a film class where I learned that movies were bigger than Spielberg and Lucas. I fell in love with Welles, Bergman, Fellini and Ozu. I learned how to watch a movie for what it is, not for what it is not. Then in college, I fell in love with Scorsese, Tarantino, and John Woo. Now, with all pomp and circumstance aside, I can honestly say that one of my favorite films of all time is “Muriel’s Wedding.”
Do you have a favorite Asian-American film?
HM: It’s hard for me to pick one favorite. But if I had to pick one, I’d say “Better Luck Tomorrow.” I just remember being 25-years-old, seeing the commercial on TV, and being blown away. Seeing MTV and Paramount’s logo attached to the commercial made me think, “Whoa, we’re in the movies!”
How or does your Asian heritage influence your work?
HM: I’ve always been asked if I’d consider writing white lead characters, and I’ve always said that I’m not against it. But as long as I’m working independently, with full control of my story, why would I make a film everybody else is already making? I’ve always felt that my movies were a reflection of me—I can’t hide the fact that I’m Asian, so why not wear it with pride?
What is your outlook on the state of Asian-American cinema?
HM: The New York Times said that my first directorial effort, “Fruit Fly,” was “hamstrung by its constraints, not all of which derive from a lack of funds.” Sure, but with whatever money we do have, we should keep writing Asian-American stories. Everyone says we need to push studios to cast more Asians, but I think the onus is also on us to create Asian-American content for Asian-American actors to populate. I’m never going to complain about the Asian-American film scene because, if there’s one thing I learned since “Colma: The Musical,” it’s that we’re all in this together.
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