A Filipino American DJ finds her groove in 'Flip the Record'

Marie Jamora's retro short is screening as part of the PBS Online Film Festival.

A little-known but lasting explosion of hip hop culture grew out of the Filipino American community of 1980s San Francisco. The short film Flip the Record, written and directed by Marie Jamora, takes us into the beat of an aspiring mobile DJ crew in '84. Vanessa, sick of the constraints and boring piano lessons in her conservative Filipino American household, starts teaching herself on the sly how to scratch on her older brother's turntables. Flip the Record follows Ness as she discovers her talents and place in the local music scene of the era.

After screening on the festival circuit, Flip the Record is now available to watch as part of the 2018 PBS Online Film Festival. The key to this film is in the feel of the details, from the retro fashion to the fresh dance moves, and even the hot-off-the-press homemade business cards. And of course, the music. It's a fun, vibrant look back at an influential but overlooked era in Filipino American pop culture.

Check it out:

Jamora started her career as a musician, playing drums and singing in an indie rock band, and eventually made her way into filmmaking through directing music videos. Music and visuals have always been integral to her work, so getting the music right for Flip the Record was a priority. But licensing music isn't cheap!

"I learned really quickly that licensing songs is darn expensive -- especially when it comes to classic '80s hits -- so we decided to create all the music from scratch," Jamora tells PBS. "We made about 10 original songs that could pass as '80s dance and hip-hop, as well as some tunes that would substitute the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) disco songs from the late '70s."

She also enlisted DJ Icy Ice from The Beat Junkies, a veteran Filipino American DJ who lived, worked and partied through the era in question, as a technical consultant to help give her characters' moves on the turntables some authenticity. He designed unique routines for each character and recorded videos of himself breaking down his techniques and movements for the actors to study.

"Our producer, Matthew Keene Smith, actually brought his own personal turntables to the actors so they could practice at home along with Ice's video tutorials," Jamora says. "Since we made the film in such a short timeframe, the actors only had a day each to practice before principal photography... Our actors, Michael Rosete and Courtney Bandeko, really did an incredible job learning all this with such little prep time."

The short is just under 15 minutes long, but by the end credits you wish it was a feature length film or an ongoing series. This is such a fun premise for a TV show. For now, Jamora isn't done with this era; she's working on her first feature-length documentary, Legions of Boom, further delving into the historty of the Bay Area mobile DJ scene of the 1980s and 90s.

You can watch, share and vote for Flip the Record, as well as 24 other films, currently streaming in the 2018 PBS Online Film Festival, July 16-27. (You can vote once every 24 hours.)

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