Sunday’s Beauty Queen is an Engaging Documentary

 

Rating:  Must watch

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On the last day of the long holiday, we watched this year’s MMFF Best Picture winner, Sunday’s Beauty Queen. I’m glad to see the movie gaining more audience after its win.

The first three movies we watched, Saving Sally, ABSST FINE and even Die Beautiful had very low patronage rates. Maybe because we watched the LFS. It’s regrettable how we fail to appreciate artistic work and would rather get our fill from tried and tested formulas with shallow and predictable plots. The entrepreneurs in the movie industry might use these outcomes to go back to its old ways..I’m crossing my fingers and pouting.

Going back…SBQ deserves the nod it got from the Board of Jurors. The four-year in the making documentary was meticulously edited to showcase equally the lives of the five subjects. This is the kind of movie to see on a day off when one wants entertainment and just the right drama. It focuses on that one day off, their Sunday, when the subjects become queens and they forget all their troubles and the weariness of being a domestic helper in HK. It isn’t emotionally taxing and not your tear jerker of an OFW movie like Vilma Santos’s Anak. It’s not a conflict-filled movie. Yet, one feels for the characters when they shed real tears for the conscious disengagement from their emotions about what is missed back home…. their children, family and the important milestones. The movie is not about the important persons in their lives. References are made just to help the movie goers understand their situations and priorities.

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The focus is clearly on the subjects representing the 190k domestic helpers or DH in HK and their lives in the land of opportunity that is also a place of drudgery…. like a double edged sword. There is no escaping and there are no real choices.

How that one day hie them off to a life of bliss, gaiety and splendor by being beauty contestants who momentarily forget who they are until they snap out of it and is reminded of their curfew.

The exposures of the subjects are brief and sometimes just fleeting. Yet, one will know what their stories are even without the heavy, gut-wrenching dialogues…. just plain story telling that tugs at the heart. Despite their circumstances, they don’t sulk and do not fall into a victim’s trap. They are, in fact, empowered and rise above their circumstances. One of them had the presence of mind to stand her ground against a cruel employer who fired her at midnight for failing to make it to her curfew.

The testimonials of the employers put into perspective the worth of the sacrifices of foreign domestic helpers. In an employee-employer relationship that is seen as mutually beneficial by both sides, the Filipina DH will ensure that their households are run efficiently and with love. It is a feel good movie because all five subjects are shown in a good light with their appreciative employers or while preparing for the pageant.  What about the rest?

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Beautifully interspersed are familar HK living scenes …. the modern island cityscape, the cramped condo living, the ubiquitous train rides, the octopus…. In a modern city, it is ironic that their labor laws are still biased against foreign workers…. the big difference in pay with their local counterparts, the 14-day deadline to to find a new employer to be able to stay once fired….

The movie has its own share of political statements. It touches on the inability and/or unwillingness of our government to help our OFW in times of their need. All the hype on their being the new heroes is just hot air after all. They are left on their own and our government does little or nothing to protect them. There is also the subliminal message that the Pinoy diaspora is the only viable option for those seeking a better life. They would readily trade the comfort of working here surrounded by loved ones and friends for underemployment with a good pay abroad. Why the subjects who are college grads and undergrads chose to become DH in HK is most telling of this truism.

The movie ends with a successor of the Miss Tourism pageant… With all the hoopla and preparation, the story follows through on the subjects’ lives … their future, their ambitions and aspirations and their choices.

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Coming out of movie, one feels that Filipinos associated with being a DH is not really a stigma. Filipino domestic helpers, after all, help in shaping a family, a household, an economy …. as they allow family members they serve to pursue their aspirations and dreams while sacrificing their own. They channel their loneliness into service with love for their wards. For this, Filipina DH are a rare breed of workers. Any household should be lucky to be served by them.

Go watch this Cinema Evaluation Board rated A movie and help inspire independent filmmakers to make realistic movies and documentaries that inspire us to rise above our circumstances without being preachy.

Postscript:  Like my wish for  Saving Sally  and other indie entries, I hope that Sunday’s Beauty Queen will get its due recognition in terms of nods from international awards giving bodies and viewership and cash receipts too from the global movie going public.

(This was originally posted in my FB status while the MMFF was ongoing and I was among those promoting the indie entries.)

Photo credits:  Grabbed from the internet.

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