Since I started this blog several months ago, I’ve mostly created posts about my parents (Oscar & Lucila Dypiangco) and my experiences becoming actively involved within the Filipino-American community. Both of these subjects are very key to my ongoing search for my personal home unknown. However, I thought it was time to finally write an update on production of the Home Unknown documentary and where it presently stands.
Making a feature documentary is no easy task, and it is especially difficult when you’re trying to do all of the work by yourself. From the moment I started planning Home Unknown a few years ago, I envisioned this as a personal documentary I could make with little outside help. Because my background from NYU film school is in independent filmmaking and because this project has almost no budget, I knew that I would produce it, shoot it and likely edit it myself. Although I was able to successfully plan and shoot the film alone, I’ve found editing to be a much bigger challenge than I anticipated. Because the material is so personal and I’m one of the film’s main characters, it’s very difficult for me to understand how others might be viewing the scenes I’m cutting together. This has taught me time and time again that finishing this movie alone is a fool’s errand and that I need outside help. Lots of it.
The Home Unknown trailer that is currently on this website was completed in June of this year. It was the result of months hard work and lots of a amazing input from a fellow documentary filmmaker named Stephen Deline. While I am proud of all of the work I put into this trailer, I know deep down that it can be a lot better. So that’s why I’m currently working on a new version that highlights, clarifies and deepens a few critical points such as my relationship with my mom, the scope of our travels within the Philippines and my struggle to understand why I was making this film in the first place.
About two months ago, I wrote this new synopsis for Home Unknown that I feel better explains what the movie is about. My goal is to adjust the trailer, so it matches more of what I describe here:
A twentysomething Filipino-American who has largely ignored his cultural heritage, grad film student Stephen Dypiangco documents his first trip back to his parents’ native land since he was a scrawny, apathetic, pimply-faced teenager. Although he’s drawn to connect with his far-flung relatives and a homeland he’s never truly known, he doesn’t fully understand why he’s making this film. It just feels right.
Without any personal ties to his aunties, uncles or cousins in the Philippines, he heads out across the Pacific with his emotionally guarded mom Lucila and always supportive dad Oscar, who both turn out to be surprisingly quirky. As they proudly introduce him to his own family, show him places they no longer recognize and reminisce about their nearly forgotten former lives, Stephen realizes something. His home unknown isn’t just the Philippines. It’s also his parents, whom he’s never bothered to truly know. With the trip winding down quickly, Stephen tries to figure out who his parents are and to finally think of them as real people.
Fast-forward three years. Stephen still isn’t done with the documentary. His Filipino identity is still a mystery. And he and his pregnant wife are now living with his parents. It’s at this embarrassing low point that a breakthrough occurs. He realizes that the reason he’s still making this film is to unite the two things he loves most in life, which are inconveniently at odds – his family and his career. As he redoubles his efforts to finish his film, begins connecting with fellow Fil-Ams and tells his mom how he really feels about her, Stephen nervously preps his next project – parenthood.
Thanks for reading this and your interest in Home Unknown. Finishing this movie and getting it out into the world is going to be an incredible challenge, but I know that I can do it with your continued support!