Photo of Ara Chawdhury, California-based Filmmaker

About Ara Chawdhury

I've lived a lot of lives and worn a lot of hats, slow travelling first through the Philippine islands, and now the United States.

As a tarot reader and trained journalist, I pick up stories like rain for a storm. But for all the water, I am consistently a fire starter. I’ve set up cosplay conventions, film productions and festivals all fuelled by very little budgets but plenty of passion. My work explores the obscure and the occult, interested in revisiting old but forgotten territory or finding new ways to talk about what would otherwise be taboo.

I am currently taking up Masters in Film at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and have written for the upcoming Irish and Philippine feature film, Nocebo.

More About Ara Chawdhury

(born 1989, Manila, Philippines) Ara Chawdhury is an award-winning writer/director, human rights activist, event organizer, and musician.

As a third culture kid, my projects are interested in intersections. In what happens when the lines between social constructs blur. I want to create provocative art that challenges the world being presented to my children and the rest of the global southern majority. I am interested in deconstructing how history shapes culture, and reconstructing a sensibility from the debris of cultural erasure. My work has been described as “Charming”, “Rich”, “Irreverent”.

I was interested in musical theater growing up and studied Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines, hoping to make a living writing for the papers while I wrote music and sang for different rock and blues acts (Dama de Noche, Hastang, Bad Baby, Imadyina). I  got involved with film production through Damgo ni Eleuteria (2010) as a production coordinator and actress and saw that you could make magic with so little, just by being hyperspecific.

Aberya (2012), my first screenplay, premiered at the Lincoln Center of the Arts for the New York Asian Film Festival. But it wasn’t until Operation Prutas (2015) won best film and director at the Sinulog Short Film Festival that doors started opening for me as a writer/director. I won a Cinemaone Originals grant to produce my debut feature, Miss Bulalacao (2015), which is about a drag princess who becomes pregnant following an alien abduction. It won best screenplay at the Cinemaone Originals Film Festival and Best First Feature by the Young Critics Circle of the Philippines. It premiered internationally at the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival in FUzhou, China and went on to screen at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa; Dharamashala International Film Festival in India; GLITCH Film Festival in Glasgow; the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; and the Active Vista Film Festival in the Philippines. The film has received rave reviews and was included in several Best of Philippine Cinema lists.

I produced SUPERPSYCHOCEBU, a stoner comedy about a young man on a quest to find a mythical weed strain in the Philippines, where it is illegal. It won the Golden Ganja Award at Bangkok’s The Amazing Stoner Movie Festival in 2019.

I’ve spoken about the development of contemporary Cebuano Cinema in schools and conferences all over the Philippines, including a TedX event in Lahug, Cebu and led the organization of the BINISAYA film festival in 2017 which included a film conference in an effort to address the challenges of the film community of Cebu, a film lab that produced the exquisite corpse project/film, Martes Martes, and a retrospective of 10 years of Contemporary Cebuano Cinema in major malls, universities, and community centers around the island.

As a member of the artist collective, DAKILA, I’ve advocated for human rights issues, the passing of the SOGIE bill in the Philippines, and against the expansion of a coal plant in the city of Cebu.

I was lucky to be part of Batch 22 of Ricky Lee’s Screenwriting Workshops in 2019 and was a fellow at the QYouth Foundation Screenwriting Lab in 2020.

I am completing my MFA in Film at the Vermont College of Fine Arts remotely and currently based in San Francisco where I sing and play the bass on synth for Lulu Bailan.