5 Things to Know About 'Baka Bukas' Director Samantha Lee

Get to know more about the promising filmmaker.
by Mylene Mendoza   |  Nov 15, 2020
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It’s always a treat to find refreshing movies in the local film scene that break out of stereotypes, may it be through the characters in the story or the format the movies follow. This is probably one of the reasons why director Samantha Lee’s films were well-received by its intended audience. While Lee may be relatively new to the industry with two films under her belt so far, she’s been flying all around the world to attend international film festivals where her films have been featured.

Below, get to know more about the promising filmmaker: 

Sam masterminded films that champion queer representation.

So far, Lee has directed two films--Baka Bukas (2016) and Billie and Emma (2018)In both films, Lee’s goal was to depict the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community in real life through their characters as one step towards being represented in mass media.

Baka Bukas stars Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Louise delos Reyes and tells the story of 23-year-old Alex who began to fall in love wit her best friend Jess. The film won several awards at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival, including Audience Choice Award, Best Sound, and Best Actress (Jasmine Curtis-Smith). 


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The titular characters of Billie and Emma on the other hand are portrayed by newcomers Gabby Padilla and Zar Donato. The film is a coming-of-age story that protrays various realities of teenagers today, including sexuality, finding one's identity, and unwanted pregnancy. The film was screened in several international film festivals including Osaka Asian Film Festival and Roze Filmdagen Amsterdam LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

Her films are a reflection of her own experience.

Speaking of the movies she's made, both films depict Lee's experiences as a queer creative in real life. In an interview with CNN Philippines, the filmmaker explains that some lines in Baka Bukas, particularly the part where Curtis-Smith's character was pitching an idea in a meeting, were actually lines that have been said to her in real life. "I just made it into comedy," she quips. 


On the other hand, Lee described her sophomore film Billie and Emma as an "homage to the lost youth that I think I had." Lee explained that she came out at 23 years old and Billie and Emma portrays experiences she could've had in high school if she had the chance to come out earlier. "That's why I want to make films that make it okay for kids to just be themselves and to explore parts of themselves when they're young," she explains.  

She is a Scorpio.

Lee is a proud Scorpio. Scorpios are known for being resourceful, passionate, and determined which reflect Lee's work ethic when it comes to her films. 

She used to live in Australia.

When Lee was 23 years old, she went to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia. Her experience there was what motivated her to go back to the Philippines to make films that help push for better representation for and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. In a story she wrote for Vice, Lee narrates her experience of feeling at ease with just being herself while she was in Australia. "I was walking out of a club and holding a girl's hand. We were just holding hands, walking home. And no one cared. I felt comfortable." This realization pushed her to fly back home in hopes of normalizing the same situation in her own country through films.


She went to an all-girls Catholic high school.

In the same article, Lee also revealed that she attended a all-girls Catholic high school. Tackling lessons about how homosexuality was reflected in Catholic teachings influenced how Lee grappled with her sexuality. "In the class, they said that being gay is not a sin, but acting on your urges is. I think I carried that with me for years, thinking that as long as I don’t date a girl, or kiss a girl, or hold another girl's hand, then I’m fine." 


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Mylene Mendoza
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"I don't have to stress over whether the characters will end up together or not because it's a rom-com movie-main characters get their happily ever after."