Few Filipino-Americans have heard the name Victoria Manalo Draves and even fewer are aware of her role in Filipino-American history. Few know that Vicki, as she was often called, was a world-class competitive diver, few recognize that that she one of the first Asian Americans to win a gold medal at the Olympics, and few have knowledge of the prejudice she faced being born in 1924 to an English mother and a Filipino father.
Actress and producer Georgina Tolentino hopes to change that.
By creating a narrative film inspired by Vicki's life, Tolentino is hoping to work with some of the best filmmakers in the business to share the Olympian’s story with the world. Though the names of the director and writer for the film still remain undisclosed, they have won awards at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and are currently nominated for the British Academy Film Awards. Tolentino is using a Kickstarter to fund the costs of producing a quality script, needing to raise $18,000 by Monday, February 17 in order to receive funding.
In preparation for her starring role as Vicki, Tolentino has taken an active approach by speaking to those who knew the diver personally and taking lessons in both diving and gymnastics to hone her skills. “I didn’t understand why she dove until I did,” Tolentino said. “She dove for her father, for her mother, [and] for the community that accepted her as an equal in sports. She dove for her friends that faced Japanese internment, for women who, even in diving and at the time, held many biases. She dove for her English aunt who married someone who was Filipino and complained about threats at work because her marriage was “disgusting and wrong” and then later found dead in an elevator shaft. She dove for what she represented -- America. She dove not for the restrictions or what America was, but what it could and should be -- equality.”
Growing up with as a daughter of interracial parents in San Francisco, Tolentino’s similarities with Vicki goes beyond the physical. Both exhibit great passion in fighting to see their objectives come to life.
“[Vicki] is a historic icon to the Filipino community, to divers, to San Francisco, to women, and [her story] highlights a time in America that is so trying,” Tolentino notes. “I think people say its impossible to [make a film about Vicki], but people told Vicki it was impossible to do what she did.”
Reaching the $18,000 goal is important to see this film move forward in production. The project will only be funded if the Kickstarter reaches this amount before its February 17 deadline. Tolentino insists that Vicki made a large impact on the world and that she should be recognized for her accomplishements.
“If you have been inspired and touched with what you've heard about Vicki, imagine what sharing her story with the world with a narrative lens,” she writes. “This is a story that needs to be told.”
To provide support to the project, please donate to the Kickstarter by clicking here and following news about the film on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and its official website.
*All images provided by Georgina Tolentino