Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From the sacred to the profane to the self: A review of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela*

Oscar Wilde once observed that “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” This was exactly my sentiment last Monday, 20 October 2008, after I attended the evening screening of the 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival at the Cineplex, Gateway Mall, at Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. We were there for the Philippine premiere of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, or what its Icelandic director Olaf De Fleur calls this 80-minute combination of fact and fiction, a “visiomentary” of a transsexual from Cebu whose dreams of a better life take her from being an internet porn princess to the streets of Paris.

According to De Fleur, a “visiomentary” is a cross between documentary and narrative fiction filmmaking. Apart from this, the movie has no other pretensions. It is not about transsexualism. It is not about the “ladyboy” phenomenon or the highly sexualized version of Asian transgender women. It is not even about what most stories involving transgender characters are about: a coming of age, a reconciliation with and finding of the true self.


Many who have seen the movie have dismissed it. One commentator has already called Raquela “just another third world tranny” and the critics may be right in their skepticism. Raquela’s story, after all, is hardly remarkable by any measure and those who are familiar with the transgender community will readily attest that she is in fact a walking cliché: poor, uneducated, and turns tricks for a living. Tell us something we don’t already know, they say.

And yet there is something about Raquela that compels you to watch her: from her unorthodox looks to her inane thoughts about life to her ridiculously impish voice to her journey to Iceland to work in a fish factory and finally to her Parisian rendezvous with her porn web master. Raquela is the transgender shaman venerated in ancient times that the movie mentions in the beginning. She is also the prostitute walking the streets of Cebu. She is the royalty raised by poor farmers who will come back to reclaim her kingdom in the fairy tale told at the end of the movie. Raquela is also now the person, in front of us, who only wants a “chance to live a better life.” All these elements come together in a heartfelt way to reveal one amazing truth: that she is us.

*The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela has won Best Feature in the Teddy Awards at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, Best International Feature and Showtime Vanguard Award at the New York LGBT Film Festival, and the Jury Prize for its Special Contribution to Contemporary Film Expression at Cinema City.


Monica Roberts said...

I was wondering what you peeps thought about the movie. ;)

PinayTG said...

Certainly, it's not a movie that will define my generation but it is recommended viewing for all trans women of our time. :)