The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela

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Opens: Sept. 26 (Regent)

Fire meets ice as a transsexual from the Philippines tries to adjust to life in Iceland in "The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela." Icelandic director Olaf De Fleur originally planned to make a documentary about Philippine "ladyboys," as they are known in their native culture. But when he met Raquela, he decided to cast her in a fictional narrative about a transsexual who dreams of escaping her provincial universe. This festival favorite will find appreciative audiences in a few big cities.

The great strength of the film is that it is difficult to know where cinema verite leaves off and fiction begins. De Fleur obviously elicited the trust of Raquela and some of her friends and encouraged them to share their thoughts on camera. He also enlisted one of the film's producers, Stefan Schaefer, to portray the character of a sleazy internet porn producer, who plays on Raquela's dreams for his own purposes. The film illuminates the difficult challenges for people who don't fit society's norms. It also draws striking visual contrasts between the sultry tenor of life in Cebu City, where Raquela does a little hooking, and the frigid environs of Reykjavik, where she works in a fish factory.

Eventually Raquela realizes her dream of seeing Paris, but her options are limited there, and the ending finds her back on the streets of Cebu City. Through all her adventures, Raquela emerges as a proud, defiant personality, and we enjoy spending time in her company. De Fleur and cinematographer Butch Maddul do a good job depicting the very different universes that Raquela traverses.

Cast: Raquela Rios, Stefan Schaefer, Brax Villa, Via Galudo, Valerie Grand.
Director-Screenwriter: Olaf De Fleur.
Producers: Arleen Cuevas, Olaf De Fleur, Stefan Schaefer, Helgi Sverrisson.
Executive producer: Baltasar Kormakur.
Director of photography: Butch Maddul.
Music: Pavel E. Smid
Editors: Dagur Kari, Olaf De Fleur.
No rating, 80 minutes.

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