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Upcoming Sitcom Series Celebrates the Differences and Similarities of Filipino and Mennonite Culture

When travelling through rural Manitoba, it may feel impossible not to bump into a Mennonite. Another group you may run into are Filipinos, with approximately 80 thousand living here in Manitoba. In reflection of this new Manitoban dynamic, a group is creating a sitcom celebrating these two communities. The show is called “Maria and the Mennos.” 

The team includes executive producer Orlando Braun, writer Alec Carlos, and co-writers/producers/creators Paul Plett, Tina Fehr-Kehler, and Hazel Wallace. 

The show’s central premise is fashion designer Maria moves into her in-law’s place with her new husband Nate to save money for a house. As a fish-out-of-water story and sitcom, shenanigans inevitably ensue.

“This show is all about exploring new dynamics. It’s a sitcom showing how Maria can hold true to her identity while learning about Nate and his family. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of singing, and a lot of food. It will truly be that family sitcom you turn on as you eat dinner,” says Wallace.

It’s only recently that stories representing these two Manitoban communities have hit the screen. “I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight,” released in August 2020, was one of the first times we’ve seen these communities together on screen. “Maria and the Mennos” is a chance for members of these communities to share about themselves says Plett.

“I know myself as a Mennonite, and a number of the Filipino collaborators I’ve worked with have never seen ourselves represented on TV from our perspective, our stories. We’ve seen other people’s stories or interpretations of what it means to be Mennonite for myself, and what I think for Hazel is what it means to be Filipino or Filipino-Canadian. So we wanted to come up with a show that represented us.”

Plett approached Wallace, after having worked on some previous projects together, with the concept of a show in Manitoba featuring local talent. Hazel had never produced a project before but jumped at the opportunity wanting to see more Filipinos on the screen. Asians and Pacific Islanders account for less than six percent of speaking roles in Hollywood films. That number is much smaller for leading roles. For Wallace, signing up for this project was essential to provide a safe space for Filipinos to improve their craft and to create Asian representation she didn’t have growing up. 

However, representation is one of many benefits of this project. While in the writing room, the group learned about the uniqueness of their respective cultures and community and the similarities these two groups share. 

“One of the similarities is hardworking, like a work ethic,” says Fehr-Kehler. “Like a lot of cultural communities, family is very important. Both of our communities value the Christian faith, different perspectives of it though, but they both do. Like every culture, we both love our own food and celebrate it.”

According to Wallace, Filipino households often have giant wooden forks and spoons. Surprisingly and exciting to her, Fehr-Kehler has those too. 

“Maria and the Mennos” is expected to begin filming in January 2023 until March, that’s when editing begins.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural

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