This period gangster piece makes a statement about AAPI allyship

For our AAPI Creative Excellence Series, 'Onion Soup' from filmmaker Melissa Del Rosario is fan fiction responding to violence against the AAPI community

Published On
May 12, 2022

Editor's Pick

In our continuing AAPI Creative Excellence Series in honor of AAPI Heritage Month, next up, we have Melissa Del Rosario, a film producer, director and writer  of Filipino and Spanish descent. A third-generation American, Del Rosario founded Las Vegas-based Rose Ray Media, a production company that is dedicated to creating and promoting diverse stories featuring female, LBTQ+ and BIPOC voices. The company’s work spans short and feature films, commercials, music video, social film and more. Del Rosario is an alumnus of University of Nevada Las Vegas Film school and was its first student to producer and sell a feature while still studying as an undergrad.  She prides herself on supporting her local film community and volunteers at local festivals such as the  Nevada Women's Film Festival, the Las Vegas Film Festival and more recently,  the 48 Hour Film Project—Las Vegas.

Here, Del Rosario shares a pair of projects, “Onion Soup,” a period film about an Asian gangster that was inspired by the real-world issues of violence against AAPI individuals in the country, as well as her first feature, "Take Out Girl,” which is currently trending on Hulu for AAPI Heritage Month. 

Melissa Del Rosario
Melissa Del Rosario on the set of 'Onion Soup'

"Onion Soup" is a short film set in the 1880's in San Francisco Chinatown. It’s about Joji, an Asian gangster  who is at a crossroads about why he commits violent act  and is faced with the decision to help a rival gang member who is being racially targeted by five Irishmen. 

This film aims to promote awareness and diversity, while showing that violence in and of itself is senseless and that as a community we need to come together and stand against racial inequalities.

I produced “Onion Soup” as a personal therapy for myself. While Asian American hate crimes have been around since Asians first began migrating to America, since the onset of the pandemic those hate crimes have been escalating. 

The first time I’ve ever experienced racism for what I look like was at the start of the pandemic, and it didn’t just happen once. For the first time I was called a “Chink.” For the first time I was told to “go back to China.” For the first time I was approached by people in a car who wanted to run me over for “spreading this virus” as they yelled slurs and chased me into the grocery store. 

Those were not the only instances. I am not the only Asian American, or person to face these types of racist attacks. This film helped me cope with what's happening to me and countless others around the world. Although this film is a period piece, set in the 1880's and taking inspiration from the HBO Max Show "Warrior" based on Bruce Lee's writings,  it makes the point that racism in America has been around so much longer than the hashtag “#stopasianhate.”

It was the first time I was able to produce a world from floor to ceiling.  This set does not exist anywhere, and it was a learning experience as my first period piece. Everything took time from the authentic seven-piece costumes, getting the walls into place, and for the stunt coordinators Kris Mayeshiro and Tek Le to plan the choreography. I have to thank the director, Alberto Triana, for developing the story with me and wearing so many hats. Without his support this film could not have been made. 

Audrey Page, the production designer, stayed up all night into the next morning with me painting the floors before the shoot and making a studio space into an alleyway. Christian Botos, the costume designer and wardrobe historian, spent months making the outfits for every character and making sure that each outfit was period accurate from the hats down to the shoes. The entire cast and crew came together to get this story made and I am so thankful for all of their help.


Also, important to me was my first feature film, "Take Out Girl," which is currently trending on Hulu for AAPI Heritage Month. It is based on the true story of an Asian American woman, Tera Wong doing whatever it takes— including negotiating her way into the drug business—to support her family and family's Chinese food business.


Take Out Girl Trailer from Melissa Del Rosario on Vimeo.


It was an incredible honor working with Hedy Wong, the writer, producer, and lead actress who the film is based on. I became a producer on the project because I fell in love with the script. It is still a rare concept for me to get scripts with Asian American women in a leading role who aren't the stereotypical "model minority" or the subject of the male gaze. I don't see enough Asian American stories being made period, and I make it a point to find stories that promote diversity and awareness and make them.




May 12, 2022
Filmmaker :
Melissa Del Rosario
Production Company :
Rose Ray Media

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