Tuesday, September 16, 2008
'The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela' film opens in NY and LA
New York and Los Angeles – September 26
Raquela is a transsexual - or “ladyboy” - from the Philippines who dreams of escaping the streets of Cebu City for a fairy tale life in Paris. In order to make her dreams come true, she turns from prostitution toward the more lucrative business of Internet porn. Her success as a porn star brings new friends, including Valerie, a ladyboy in Iceland, and Michael, the owner of the website Raquela works for. Valerie helps Raquela get as far as Iceland. From there, Michael offers her a rendezvous in Paris. Will Paris be everything she dreamed of? And will Michael turn out to be her Prince Charming?
In my first visit to Cebu City in the Philippines, I happened to be walking in one of the poor neighborhoods when I saw three girls who were at odds with the location. They were dressed more like famous movie stars than someone on an every-day stroll amongst the locals in Cebu City.
This caught my attention, as anything with such contrasts often bears the light of a possible film. The girls turned out to be Transgendered men, who said they had the "soul of a woman," as they explained it to me, in layman’s terms.
I went on the Internet to find interesting subjects, as I often do when I begin research for a film. I spoke with about 30 Tgirls (trans-woman) in the Philippines. One in particular caught my attention for how smart, charming and creative she was: Raquela Rios, whose birth name is Earvin. I fell in love with Raquela and the story she represented. Coming into the world with so many odds against her encouraged me to do the best film possible as one human to another.
Very quickly, I established a film crew in Cebu City near where she lived and started filming her life. As a filmmaker I had finished four feature docs in three years, and initially assumed I was moving towards the fifth with "Raquela." I soon realized that I was not in the least bit interested in copying so many others who create sob stories about how hard life is for Tgirls. Slightly stranded but undeterred, I knew I did not want to make a documentary but I didn't have the kind of funding it takes to create a standard narrative feature. I would allow myself to do anything I wanted to do, in order to tell a story as vividly as possible.
Raquela would act partly as herself, adding narrative elements as her dream began to take shape under our influence. I brought in actors, (some were amateurs), and added dramatic content as the story began to take on a life of its own. I was acquainted with an Austrian hotel owner in Cebu who always had a life-long dream of acting, and cast him as Johnny K., the porn photographer. My own grandmother was also suitably cast as an extra. I decided not to follow the rules about aesthetics or methods I had learned. The main thing was to trust my "gut" feelings and just breathe with the story.
Olaf de Fleur was born 1975 in a small village in Iceland called Budardalur. He studied physics in Reykjavik, graduating in 1995. Since then he has participated in numerous film projects, including both feature and documentary films. After deciding to pursue filmmaking, instead of going to film school, he founded an independent production company, Poppoli Pictures. Headed by de Fleur as director and producer, the team created Blindsker, which won the Best Documentary in the Icelandic Film Awards 2004 and Africa United, which won the same prize in 2005. Olaf de Fleur was nominated as the best Icelandic Filmmaker in 2005 and 2006 at cultural DV (newspaper) Awards and Best Director in 2005 at the Icelandic Film Awards. He was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2002 and 2003. He won the Berlin Film Festival Best Queer Film Award, the “Teddy,” for The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.
“Queen Raquela is not about sex-change operations or identity quests, but the touching, dreamlike, quasi-autobiographical tale of Raquela Rios, a transsexual Cebu City prostitute who longs to leave the Philippines, meet a nice straight man and visit Paris.”
- Premiere Magazine
“Raquela’s story lives with us and not for us. A remarkable achievement.”
- Pop Matters