Adulteress, traitor, heroine, or prey? In 1932, Celine Navarro was buried alive by her community in Northern California. This film digs up herstory. The filmmaker, a grieving mother, with a long-term commitment to exploring race, gender and immigration, digs up Celine Navarro’s story, exposing silences that haunt Filipin@x American communities today, along with Celine Navarro’s family, community members and scholars who know different details about this largely untold event in American history.
THE CELINE ARCHIVE is a creative documentary that brings together animation, portraiture, interviews, site visits, and archival materials to explore the story of Celine Navarro, a Filipin@ immigrant woman murdered by her community in 1932. Seven Filipin@ men and women kidnapped her, tried her for crimes of morality (adultery and stealing from her husband), made her crawl on beans, stoned her, and then buried her alive before they were acquitted in a prominent case that captivated Americans and the world.
Celine Navarro may have committed adultery. There is no proof beyond the accusations passionately forwarded. She may have been considered a traitor for how she betrayed the fraternal organization Caballeros Dimas Alang when reporting a crime committed by its members who ended up in San Quentin Prison. To betray the organization that counted on loyalty supposedly led to her punishment. Another version of this story is that the crime she reported was one of gendered violence—rendering Celine as a brave and courageous pioneering feminist who refused to be silenced. A final version presented by her sisters, women in their 80s, who recorded their version of the story in the archives of the Filipino American National Historical Society, is that she was preyed upon by a community leader who desired her and was encouraged by her ambitious husband to comply. The leader’s wife became jealous and was first to stone Celine. We do not know the real story. These are the four versions uncovered in the film.