« 13 Beloved | Main | Coffee Break »

March 20, 2008

Paper Dolls

paper dolls 3.jpg

Bubot Niyar
Tomer Heymann - 2006
Strand Releasing Region 1 DVD

Paper Dolls is the unexpected true story about two groups of marginalized people who find value in each other. The Dolls are a group of performers, Filipino men, gay or transgendered, who perform together in drag. Several of them work as caregivers for elderly Jewish residents of Tel Aviv, some of whom are extremely orthodox. Tomer Heymann, seen above with Doll Sally, originally intended simply to create a documentary about strangers in a strange land. What Paper Dolls turns out to be is an exploration about the fluidity of those parts that create a sense of identity: country, community, family and sexuality.

That there is even a Filipino community in Israel is the result of the need for worker, especially those jobs that may have been previously filled by Palestinians who have been denied the ability to cross the border. Heymann's documentary takes a dramatic turn when some of the Dolls find themselves in a legal limbo following a crackdown on illegal workers. While Heymann focuses on five of the Dolls, it is the overall dramatic arc of the film, as well as the unexpected collision of two cultures that would seemingly never intersect that continues to be of interest.

paper dolls 2.jpg

At one point, Heymann, who is gay, helps arrange for the Paper Dolls to perform at a very large Tel Aviv night club, TLV. The more traditional type of female impersonators look askance at the Dolls. The Dolls, in turn, feel discomfort at seeing two muscle bound men groping each other as a stage act. When the show is over, the Dolls discuss how they feel more at home performing for their smaller Filipino audience. Even though the Dolls have learned Hebrew, and in some ways have greater personal expression of their sexuality than in the Philippines, they also continue to speak Tagalog to each other, and as a reflection of the influence of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, recite "The Lord's Prayer" prior to their shows.

Heymann also concentrates of the friendship between transgendered Sally, and Haim, an 89 year old man without a larynx. The relationship between the two vacillates between patient and nurse, teacher and student, and even father and daughter. The only weakness to the film is that Heymann never is quite where he should have been in filming the performances. Otherwise, Paper Dolls is a reminder that sometimes when real life is filmed, what is revealed is more original than anything Hollywood can imagine.

paper dolls 5.jpg

Posted by peter at March 20, 2008 12:20 AM