H.P. Mendoza’s recipe for his film “Bitter Melon”

H.P. Mendoza’s recipe for his film “Bitter Melon”


It takes an easy 12 to 16 weeks of patience before you can harvest bitter melon, but it takes talent and precision to cook it. Director H.P. Mendoza has done an incredible job on making his latest masterpiece film, appropriately titled “Bitter Melon”. The film is a dark comedy drama about a Filipino-American family reuniting for Christmas. Though most families (not just Filipino-Americans) have a mixture of fun, love, and drama at holiday gatherings, this one adds the suspense of characters conspiring on how to murder their violent and abusive family member.


H.P. Mendoza is a San Francisco raised director, screenwriter, actor, producer, and musician. He is best known for his work in Colma: The Musical (2007) as its screenwriter, composer and lyricist. He also made his directorial debut on the musical film Fruit Fly (2010). Being a jack-of-all-trades makes him a master micro-budget filmmaker. “Bitter Melon” is still considered a low-budget film even though it is partnered with Cinematografo Originals. He submitted the script for this film to Cinematografo’s Original Script Contest that grants funding for production to chosen scripts. He said that he was expecting that Cinematografo would not like his script and was surprised that there were no questions asked, like the usual “Why are they Filipino?” Apart from being an exceptional script, having the story about a Filipino family and cast with Filipino actors makes it best for Cinematografo.



Though it is a dark comedy drama (dark dramedy?), the film tackles a lot of problems that add many layers to the story..


It’s a film that deals with themes of homophobia, misogyny, bullying, Stockholm Syndrome, family, domestic abuse, and toxic masculinity” Mendoza described. Though these themes aren’t uncommon in non-Filipino films, it does show how big of a factor culture is.



As a minority, it is important that there is representation in the film industry and in films themselves. Having the film centered around a Filipino family not only solves the representation issue but it opens the opportunity for us to tell our stories, good or bad. Most of the time, minor roles that are based on people of color are often built on stereotyped characterization. Having an all Filipino cast helps bring out a high level of authenticity to the film.



Mendoza calls “Bitter Melon” his most ambitious film to date. He raised funds through Kickstarter to cover expenses for the post-production of the film. “Bitter Melon” reached its $50k mark and got the funding the film deserves. Mendoza never failed to update the film’s pledgers about the progress of the production by posting on social media. We get to see the journey of his film and in some way, experience it with him.




After a year of production, “Bitter Melon” is finally ready to be seen by the world. Our friends at The Center for Asian American Media have chosen “Bitter Melon” as the centerpiece film for their  2018 CAAMFest. This will be the film’s world premiere, and will have three screenings throughout the CAAMFest program. This is just the start for H.P. Mendoza and “Bitter Melon”. Congratulations! We can’t wait to see how far this film will go.



Check out the “Bitter Melon” CAAMFest page for tickets.

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