« Coffee Break | Main | Cinema Q Film Festival: Two Spanish Souffles »

May 25, 2009

Cinema Q Film Festival: The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela

queen raquela 1.jpg

Olaf de Fleur Johannesson - 2008
Regent Releasing 35mm film

This week will be devoted to five of the films showing at Denver's Cinema Q Film Festival.

What I like about The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela is that the film, like the title character, defy expectations or easy explanations. That may also explain why, in spite of the critical praise and festival awards, why this film has not been more of a commercial success in the U.S. I am glad that it has been included in the Cinema Q Film Festival. One of the aspects I like about the festival itself is that the selection of films is international, with narrative films also from Spain, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Too often, GLBT films, at least a number of the English language films, seem bent on reinforcing assumptions regarding sex, gender, gender roles, and society at large. While the Filipino ladyboys of Queen Raquela share some of the same problems as transexuals in the U.S., what may be eye opening to some is the way aspects of Filipino culture are a significant part of their lives, such as the goal of contributing financially to their families, as well as their very sincere Catholic faith. The film is documentary in style, though more a combination of some real events recreated and imagines events in the life Raquela.

queen raquela 2.jpg

Part of Raquela's life follows the path of prostitution, followed by being a web cam performer. Raquela also appears simultaneously naive and savvy when she interviews, in her male persona of Earvin, for a nursing school. When the admission officer notes that nurses often use their degrees to get jobs in other countries, Raquela response as if that thought never crossed her mind. When asked why she wants to be a nurse, Raquela describes the job as that of an airline stewardess, only in a hospital. Raquela proves to be both resilient and adaptable when the opportunity comes for her to visit Iceland. Not only is she not deterred by the cold weather, but she takes on the job of working in a fish factory with other members of Iceland's Filipino community, in spite of the unfashionable work clothing or her inability to speak any Icelandic. A would-be suitor brings Raquela from Iceland to Paris, a city she has dreamt of visiting. In one scene, Raquela defiantly walks through the cool Paris streets in only her dress while everyone else is in coats and jackets.

What may be the best scene in the film is when Raquela and Michael, her host in Paris, part ways. Raquela enjoys Paris by herself, appreciating all that Michael had found to criticize. Additionally, the scene is about the pleasure of being alone, of setting aside the expectations demanded by oneself or others. What Queen Raquela is partially about is being Filipino and transexual, but the film could also be said to be about one person's quest not to be totally defined only by those labels, but to discover for herself her own sense of self and purpose. Looking beyond a beauty that has little to do with Hollywood standards, or the strained high pitch voice, the amazing truth about Raquela is that she is a human being with hopes, dreams and vulnerabilities, just like the rest of us.

Queen Raquela will be screened on Friday, May 29 at 8:00 pm.

queen raquela 3.jpg

Of additional note: taking exception to the identity of ladyboy, poet Sass Rogando Sasot prefers the geographically specific transpinay. For an appreciation of Queen Raquela, I recommend this posting by Filipina activist Pau Fontanos. For a different look at the lives of some transpinays, consider the documentary Paper Dolls.

Posted by peter at May 25, 2009 12:07 AM