• Festivals

Comic-Con 2022: The Hero Throws…Spring Rolls as a Weapon

Unlike other superheroes who use shields, axes, hammers, or lassos, Kuya (older brother in Tagalog), portrayed by former UFC fighter Mark Muñoz, uses an unlikely weapon – lumpia (a Filipino spring roll) – in Patricio Ginelsa’s indie film, Lumpia with a Vengeance.

Premiering at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con with an exclusive screening at the Grand Ballroom 5 of the Marriott Marquis Hotel, with a panel discussion held last July 21 at the San Diego Convention Center Room 7AB, Lumpia with a Vengeance marked the first time that an indie Filipino American feature film was showcased in the popular convention and multi-genre entertainment event.

“I’ve been attending San Diego Comic-Con as a fan for almost 20 years, so to be on the other side as a creator, panelist, and exhibitor is surreal,” remarked filmmaker Ginelsa who wrote, directed, edited, and produced the sequel to his first ever micro-budget feature simply titled Lumpia.

“My independent feature film is premiering at Comic-Con!”  he exclaimed. “Saying that sentence alone is the ultimate validation.”

In the film, Muñoz, as the Silent Avenger/Kuya, appears in Fogtown, where the residents are mostly Filipino, to prevent a shady crime syndicate from destroying their town.


The University of Southern California graduate and San Francisco-born auteur was joined onstage in the panel discussion by Muñoz, April Absynth (Blindspotting) who portrays Rachel, Darion Basco (The Fabulous Filipino Brothers) as Bayani, and Katrina Dimaranan (Miss Universe Philippines Tourism 2021, Love Island) as the villain, Jemini.

Winston Emano moderated the panel.

Also featured in the film are Danny Trejo (Machete) as Reyes, Earl Baylon (Tomb Raider Anime Series), Francis Custodio (Lumpia) as Mon Mon/James, Derek Basco (The Fabulous Filipino Brothers), film and stage actor Abe Pagtama, and comedienne-singer-actress Fe de los Reyes, among others.

The LA-based director said of his experience, “The San Diego Comic-Con experience has always been about connecting with the fans. As a creative, you’re usually stuck inside your own bubble, writing or editing. So, what a humbling feeling it is when you see fans of your work line up for your autograph signings, line up to your booth to buy your Comic-Con exclusive comic books and pack your screening and panel.

“It’s one thing to sell out your screening but for them to enjoy and laugh throughout the film? Wow! I get the most joy when I see my Lumpia cast and crew experiencing not only Comic-Con but all the avid fan interaction. This was our action lead Mark Muñoz’s first time at Comic-Con.”

The popularity of the Lumpia franchise has also given birth to the ‘Lumpia with a Vengeance’ comic books which are published independently by Kid Heroes Productions. It has allowed the creators to expand upon the movie’s story and universe with art by the same artists and illustrators who contributed to the actual movie.

The various covers and contributions from legendary creators such as Whilce Portacio (X-Men, Wetworks) and other upcoming artists resulted in limited editions provided at the SDCC screening.

The film has spun off its own comic book series which is crowdfunded by its supporters just like the sequel and the first Lumpia movie.

The 46-year-old director told us in our e-mail interview, “We hope to continue building our audience. Our companion comic books have been such a delightful surprise being well received by our fans. We are debuting our new comic book title ‘The Legendary Lumpia Squad’ and our ‘Lumpia With a Vengeance’ trade paperback with covers by Marvel and DC superstar artist Stephen Segovia and award-winning visual artist Jayson Atienza.”

Ginelsa said, “The big news we just announced at our panel is that we are releasing our film in theaters nationwide starting September 30 and through October which is Filipino American History Month.”

One of his memorable experiences at Comic-Con was when “we had a young fan show up at our autograph signing dressed up as our hero Kuya. She was in tears when she met our two leads, Mark Muñoz and April Absynth. Our panel exploded when we announced that we were going to be in theaters just around the corner on September 30. Our Lumpia lovers and avid supporters are the reason the movie even exists, being crowdfunded almost 10 years ago. They’ve fueled our journey and pushed us to the finish line. I have no doubt they will be there when we’re out in theaters.”

The film was mostly shot in Ginelsa’s hometown of Daly City, California. “They welcomed us with open arms. The city mayor and councilmen all supported our project as well as my alma mater, Jefferson High School. There were so many challenges. Aside from the financial ones typical of any independent film, the biggest challenge was the weather. We had no control over it. We shot in record heat for outdoor scenes that were supposed to take place in Fogtown!”

Fogtown is a nod to comic books, Ginelsa shared. “There’s Metropolis or Gotham City to represent New York or Chicago. So, if Daly City had a comic book equivalent, Fogtown felt like the right name. Plus, there’s so much thematically and visually you could do with that name. In my movie, Fogtown represents any American city with a huge Filipino community. I’ve always included Fogtown references in all of my work including the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Apl Song’ music video, long before cinematic universes were in vogue.”



Lumpia with a Vengeance is a passion project for Ginelsa because “our supporters greenlit the project through Kickstarter nine years ago. Back in 2013, we wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original homemade movie and Kickstarter gave us an opportunity to see if there was any interest or demand out there for a sequel. I also wanted to test the temperature out there. Was there still an appetite for Filipino American movies? I was fortunate enough to see the phenomenon of The Debut nationwide when we toured and drove cross country as an associate producer. I wanted to feel that community excitement again! It happened on our last day of Kickstarter. The drama and celebration of raising over $10,000 in the last three hours of Kickstarter when we were down was like winning the Super Bowl in the final seconds.”

As for the genesis of having a hero use lumpia as his weapon of choice, he narrated, “As teens, my younger brother Dar and I were fans of the movie El Mariachi by Robert Rodriguez. Dar joked that we should do a Filipino version of that character and the best we could think of was a guy wearing a Barong Tagalog (the Philippines’ national shirt) and throwing lumpia like a ninja star. I just took that idea and ran away with it. It felt like the corniest and wackiest idea ever, a concept perfect to shoot a homemade action movie with my neighborhood friends that summer.”

He narrated how he discovered his lead actor, Muñoz, a former UFC fighter. “I met Mark and his sister Rheena Muñoz the weekend after our Kickstarter ended. He was making the rounds around the community promoting his upcoming UFC fight. I just appreciated his warmth and genuine personality. Years later, I saw his Octagon speech in Manila after his final fight. I was moved by it. I just started to see our Lumpia hero Kuya speaking through him, even though the actual character doesn’t speak. He spoke against bullying. He also had a sense of humor. There was no need to audition because that was his audition.



As for having Danny Trejo as Reyes, he answered, “It was always a dream to cast Danny Trejo as Reyes when I wrote it. Many folks say no and reject you in this industry. But you’ll never get a yes if you don’t even try. Danny Trejo’s casting is an example of what happens when you just try. He loved his part, read all about the history of our movie, the support we got, and he said yes. It was a big moment for us!”

For Ginelsa, Lumpia with a Vengeance is a movie “fueled by our community’s desire to see more of themselves represented in movies. The studios would never greenlight a movie about a hero that throws spring rolls as a weapon. This film is unabashedly Filipino American. That doesn’t mean it’s just for Filipinos. But all of us willed this movie into existence. It takes a village, right?”

“This is it!” he exclaimed when asked what other festivals are screening the film. “The San Diego Comic-Con premiere wraps up our amazing film festival tour. It all started back in November 2020 in the middle of COVID, with us winning the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Hawai’i International Film Festival. It ends at the biggest pop culture event in the world.

“I am just so proud of my entire Lumpia squad for being a part of this unique journey. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride!”