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Paper Dolls is a candid approach to documenting the life of a group of transsexual Filipino immigrants in Tel Aviv. The director, a gay man himself, does not conceal his bias and prejudice when he introduces and interviews the main characters of his film. It is very interesting and sweet witnessing how he sheds his own homophobia (tranniephobia, should we say?) and develops respect and affection towards the Paper Dolls. The social clashes shown in this movie are deep: Religion, Class, Ethnicity, and Sexuality. This group of pre-op trannsexuals strive to integrating into mainstream society by being accepted and succeed as artists. Nevertheless, they are not willing to compromise their identity nor become exotic attractions. At the end of the movie, the conflicts and contradictions won't disappear. It will be their strong emotional ties, the ties of an alternative family, what will make the Paper Dolls survive while confronting the harsh reality of living as an outsider... On a side note, put attention during the opening tittles to the sweet rendition of "Que Sera, Sera", sang by Brazilian glory Caetano Veloso.
Paper Dolls was the opening film of the 2006 Jewish Film Festival in
Amsterdam and was received with great enthusiasm. The story is of a
group of Filipino migrant workers - rejected for being gay and
transgender in their homeland - imported into Israel to care for
elderly Jewish men and women, whose families could or would not care
for them. The stark contrast between the old religious rabbi and his
effeminate Filipino caretaker is just one of the many unlikely images
that remain in your memory after seeing this film.
Important as well is the subject of migrant workers, usually coming from developing countries to fulfil a role in developed countries that no one else seems to want to fulfil. Be it caretakers of the elderly or factory workers or garbage collectors, the developing countries seem to think they can import and export people at will, without recognizing our common humanity, needs and skills.
The short but poignant everyday scenes where the elderly are being nursed or cared for will strike a chord of recognition in anyone who has ever cared for a sick or infirm friend or relative. The unlikely friendships that develop with the elderly are set off by the drag shows that the Filipino performers give on their day off. Director and four of the cast members were present and the Paper Dolls danced and sang for us in Hebrew and English, all dolled up and giving their utmost.
Kudos to all those involved in this most sensitive look at Israeli society through different eyes. It is a must see for any of us who have ever felt like outcasts in any society.
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