The 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival Review - The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela

 

            

Remember how I mentioned that all the film descriptions at the LAFF made most of the films sound like a documentary? Well here’s a tricky one. I was fairly sure I was walking into a doc this time. But as it turns out, The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is a documentary that evolved into a narrative. Filmmaker Olaf de Fleur Johannesson set out to make a documentary but found the fund for telling such a stroy has all but run dry. change the film to a narrative waa not only a way to reaise more money, but it opened all sorts of doors creatively.

The Amazing Truth is the story of a Filipino Ladyboy* named Raquela. She is a prostitute and a party girl (well, as much of a party girl as one can be in the small town of Cebu). She, along with her friends Via & Aubrey make a dubious living, walking the streets, hoping to find that one trick who will fall in love with them, marry them and take them away from their small, impoverished existence.

Cebu's Ladyboys: Aubrey, Raquela & Via

After a slight brush with death (being hit by a car), Raquela decides to find safer ways to make money and signed up with an internet porn site. Raquela stands out because she is a touch smarter and sexier, yet just as naïve. Her charisma gets the attention of the site owner “Michael” (played brilliantly by Stefan C. Schaefer)who runs the business out of New York. Through relationships she cultivates in chat rooms, she finds another Ladyboy who helps her get a visa to the winter wonderland of Iceland.However, the Icelandic Ladyboy is only able get Raquela a work visa for two months and it is not extendable.

Once Raquela has gotten herself out of the Philippines, Michael decides to spring for a trip / rendez-vez in Raquela’s dream city of Paris. The meeting does not go well since Michael can’t help himself to criticize everything and everyone. Eventually Michael moves on to visit friends in Amsterdam and Raquela finds herself back in the Philippines, exactly where she started.

Playing doctor on the internet

Where the lines was drawn between fact and fantasy was a real problem for me in terms of how and when they broke the fourth wall. The way the film was cut also seemed to tell how the story was very much shaped in the editing room; like documentaries the footage often dictates the film you will make.. I can see what the filmmaker found so attractive about Raquela to want to make a film about her. And while she is an interesting subject, the soundtrack of this film helps a lot in terms of keep the audience emotional involved. I wanted to like this film more than I did, but I will take the hit on this one. I did enjoy the film, however I don’t think this viewer could forgive her naivety. At her core, Raquela is a good person, with dreams and good intentions just like many of us. And like the many, her reality is that she has no way to escape her circumstance.

Then again, there is always the slim chance that Prince Charming will finally find her.

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is in narrative competition at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival, taking place now through Sunday June 29th every there is a movie theater in the Westwood Village.

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*Ladyboy, it refers to a man who dresses and lives as a woman, but is still a full functional man and typically does not desire genital reassignment.

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