Squarely dropped right into the middle of the immigration debate comes Diane Paragas’ Yellow Rose and what it means to be an American hiding in plain sight. The titular Rose (Eva Noblezada) is a 17-year-old undocumented Filipina teen. After school, she sits in her room at the motel where her mother works and plays the guitar, sings, and writes. Not too shabby, she’s a good performer on all fronts.
The always worried Priscilla (Princess Punzalan), Rose’s mother, keeps her sheltered for her own protection. That is until a boy, Elliot (Liam Booth), asks Rose out on a “date” to see famed country singer Dale Watson (as himself) at a bar in Austin. Telling her mother, he’s taking her to church, Rose’s road trip to Austin is a go. Mesmerized by the music and bar atmosphere, Rose’s destiny with country music is all but solidified.
Upon her return home, ICE agents have raided the motel, and Rose’s mother is arrested and scheduled for deportation. Priscilla tells Rose to stay with her close, but estranged, friend Gail (Lea Salonga) in Austin. Knowing she’s not wanted there by Gail’s husband, Rose leaves and moves into the back room of the bar from the night before, thanks to the kindness of its owner Jolene (Libby Villari). While there, Jolene and Dale mentor the young budding country star, yet her illegal status in the U.S. still hangs over her head.
“After school, she sits in her room at the motel where her mother works and plays the guitar, sings, and writes.“
Yellow Rose is a story of hope, opportunity, and a comment on the current immigration crisis all wrapped up in the story of Rose, played wonderfully by Eva Noblezada. Stepping back from the film a bit, the film is solidly Asian (specifically a Filipino story) and very much American—you don’t get much more American than with country music.