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Ana Asensio’s award-winning film, “Most Beautiful Island,” will be featured in the Princeton Independent Film Festival (PRINDIE) alongside a Q&A on Thursday.

“PRINDIE has a good selection of films and is the coolest film festival in New Jersey,” said Asensio. “It’s a good opportunity for the people of New Jersey to see films since many of the films don’t have theatrical distribution.”

“Most Beautiful Island” has already been released in 18 cities across the country, showcased at over 20 world film festivals, including the London Film Festival, and won the narrative grand jury prize at the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival.

Asensio began her acting career at the age of 18 in Spain, and at 22, she moved to New York City to study English and further pursue her acting career. She decided to begin directing in 2011.

“[Directing] came from a need to have control over my career because as an actress you don’t have much control,” said Asensio. “It’s always a surprise. You’re at the mercy of others to decide what is next. When you create your own material, you somehow feel like you’re taking control of your destiny.”

The idea for “Most Beautiful Island,” the first film Asensio has directed and written, was inspired by her own difficult transition from obtaining a student visa to a working visa in the years 2002 and 2003. At the time, she lacked a social security number, was working day jobs to pay rent, and had imperfect English.

Asensio recalled one particularly horrifying job. She had to dress up in a Halloween costume at a party, but when the event eventually involved illicit activities, Asensio was coerced into staying for the evening after she attempted to leave.

“What if I had disappeared that night?” mused Asensio. “I didn’t have a cellphone. That could have been the last place that I was before something horrible happened to me. That was an adventure, where luckily nothing happened to me.”

All of the obstacles that Asensio encountered inspired the character development of the protagonist, Luciana.

“Luciana is the person that I was at the time,” said Asensio.

Through her film, she wanted to show one day in the life of someone living under vulnerable circumstances in New York City, since news headlines often cover hardships but hardly ever uncover the personal stories behind those circumstances.

Although the film has personal ties to Asensio’s life, she did not expect any of the accolades the film received.

“Every new film festival is a great new surprise,” she said.

Her future plans include working on a script for a second film.

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