New rom-com brings Winnipeg’s identity to the big screen with Filipina-Mennonite love story

By | August 21, 2020

A romantic comedy hitting the big screen Friday is quintessentially Winnipeg, featuring snow, cold, parkades, suburbs, wedding socials, balaclavas and the love story of a Filipina girl and Mennonite boy.

I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight “talks about the great people and things that make Winnipeg,” said filmmaker Sean Garrity, who was born in the city and recently moved back after a few years in Toronto.

“Growing up, I felt that Filipinos and Mennonites are a huge part of the cultural fabric that makes up Winnipeg.”

The synopsis of the film goes like this: In the depths of a Winnipeg winter, when everyone covers up against the bitter air, Iris (played by Hera Nalam) mistakes Simon (Kristian Jordan) for someone she knows. The case of mistaken identity leads to romance, but when it starts to feel like real love, Simon gets freaked out and leaves town for a few weeks.

Iris interprets it as a break and meets someone else just before Simon returns, embracing his love for her. And … things get complicated.

Hera Nalam as Iris in I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight. (Andrew Forbes)

A shorter synopsis on the film’s website calls it “a comedy about love, and loss, and winter, and banana sauce.”

The film was shot pre-pandemic only on weekends and evenings over a three-month period, because Nalam was doing a stage play at the same time, said Garrity, who made a name with Winnipeg-shot films like Inertia and My Awkward Sexual Adventure, and whose movies have been seen around the world, sold in 30 countries and translated into 15 languages.

“When you watch the [new] film, you can see deepest winter change slowly to the puddles and dust of late spring,” he said said. “But it was the best choice I made [to cast Nalam as the lead].”

Nalam had auditioned for a smaller part in the movie, but Garrity said he and the crew liked her so much they kept her longer at the audition and tried her with other actors.

“When she was leaving we were sad to see her go. I ran after her and asked if she would like to be the lead — I needed her to be the lead,” Garrity said.

Kristian Jordan as Simon in I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight. (Andrew Forbes)

“She said yes, but it conflicted with her theatre schedule, as she was already booked for a play. I asked her if she would quit the play and she said no, because it was a travelling play so it required many days. She said she would be willing to film on weekends and her days off.”

That meant during filming, Nalam was essentially acting for seven days a week, Garrity said.

Nalam has been in a number of plays around the city, including with Shakespeare in the Ruins, but I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight is her first film.

It’s also the first film experience for many other actors. The cast includes 29 people, 21 of whom are Filipino.

“When you call up a casting director, there’s, like, maybe five Filipino actors,” said Garrity, who asked friends who taught in schools with big Filipino populations to see if there was anyone who would want to be in the movie.

“They referred me to other people and so on. It became word of mouth in the Filipino community.”

(I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight)

The couple who plays Iris’s mom and dad are not married in real life but have emceed a number of events together around the city, so they had a certain chemistry, Garrity said.

Garrity also kept in some dialogue in Tagalog, a Filipino language, without subtitling it — because in real life, when you’re at a friend’s house and the parents speak in their native dialect, you don’t get subtitles.

The context of what is said can be deduced by the English responses from Iris, he said.

“We delighted in mixing the English and Tagalog into a spicy Taglish, typical not only of Filipino homes in North America, but typical of most multilingual immigrant homes,” Garrity said.

I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight is scheduled to run at Cineplex Odeon McGillivray and Cinema City Northgate for the next week, with four shows per day.

WATCH | Shot-in-Winnipeg movie hits the big screen:

Filipinos, Mennonites, bitter winters, mishaps and dating apps. See how this new romantic comedy is combining all things Winnipeg. 6:08

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