Salzburg Global Fellow Cha Roque Wins Amnesty International Award

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Aug 22, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Salzburg Global Fellow Cha Roque Wins Amnesty International Award

Filmmaker recognized as human rights defender bringing impact through their work Cha Roque speaking at Salzburg Global Seminar

Salzburg Global Fellow Cha Roque has spoken of her delight after winning one of Amnesty International Philippines’ first-ever human rights awards.

Roque, a multi-time Fellow of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, was recently awarded an Ignite Award for Art that Matters for Film. She was one of four winners recognized as human rights defenders bringing about impact through their work by changing peoples’ lives.

Other categories included Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Individual, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender – Organization, and Outstanding Young Human Rights Defender.

This is the first awarding season of the Ignite Awards for Human Rights. The awards aim to accord human rights defenders with the highest regard for the work they do and serve as a tool by showing ordinary people can do extraordinary work.

Speaking with Salzburg Global, Roque said, “I was literally in disbelief when I found out about being nominated… I am more of an advocacy filmmaker, and my films haven’t been making the rounds in local, big festivals. I also know a lot of other advocacy filmmakers whom I look up to, and I believe that their years in making advocacy films makes them more deserving… nonetheless, I felt very honored to be nominated and to win the award.”

Some of Roque’s notable films include Slay, What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then, and Hapag (Dining Table).

Roque said, “In my LGBT-themed films, I wanted to tell the audience that LGBT people are the same as everyone else. My films are always focused on the exposition that as humans, we share the same sentiments, the same heartbreaks, the same joys, [and] the same hopes.

“My LGBT-themed films have always been a reflection of my triumphs and struggles as a lesbian mom, and I wanted to use film to make people realize that we are not different from them and that we deserve the same rights that other people have.

“For my other films, which are also mostly political and about my advocacies, I wanted to emphasize how art and film are powerful in advocacies and how they can make a difference in the way people see things.”

Roque sat down with Sudeshan Reddy at the Salzburg Global program, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion, in October 2016, to discuss her experience as a filmmaker. She revealed the responsibility she felt she had telling the stories of fellow LGBT people.

Commenting on this program, Roque said, “It was during my first Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, in Chiang Rai, when I realized how much my films can make an impact. I have always believed that art and advocacy are very powerful when combined, but I’ve had doubts about my own films. Salzburg made me realize that my voice is as important as the voice of award-winning filmmakers. It was actually just months after that Forum when I made four films.”

In addition to this program, Roque visited Salzburg Global last summer to take part in the Forum’s follow-on program, Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging. Roque said she had met very inspiring people who have influenced her as a person and filmmaker.

Roque said, “Seeing people who share the same energy towards issues I strongly believe in motivated me to keep on making films - no matter how difficult. I did not only learn a lot from the Forum, [but] I also gained new friends who I still communicate and collaborate with until now.

“Salzburg also opened doors to a lot of opportunities for me - from meeting like-minded people to having my film premiere in the session in Austria. It is just right that I share my award with my Salzburg Fellows because I wouldn't be the person and filmmaker I am now if I have not been exposed to them.”

Reflecting on her latest award, Roque said, “As an advocate and as an artist, there are times when I question myself and get tired of what I do. This award is yet another reminder for me on why I make films, why I tell stories. This served as an inspiration and also a challenge to keep on making films that will tell about [the] triumphs and struggles of people.”

Roque is now raising funds for her next LGBT-themed film entitled White TransLady. It is an experimental film about a transwoman who gets discriminated in the afterlife and finds a family in the most unexpected place. You can get in touch with her and learn more about her films through her website.