Director: Olaf de Fleur
Olaf de Fleur again blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction in his semi-documentary The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela. It commences with a snapshot into Raquela’s life as a transsexual prostitute in the Philippines; she turns tricks, spends time with her family, plays with her dog (comically named Tootsie) and poses with her scary full-size replica Yoda doll. It’s an odd life and one in which she dreams of an escape to Paris.
Her first big break comes when she’s offered a job by porn site proprietor Michael (Stefan Schaefer). She becomes the website’s hottest new star and her success provides new friends and fresh opportunities. Can her dream of Parisienne walkways come true? Her journey, unsurprisingly, takes her to Iceland.
The film’s strongest characteristic is the confusion over what is real. For the most part, it seems entirely convincing as only a few scenes feel flatly acted or have jarring, unnatural dialogue. Consequently an internal questioning dialogue over what is and isn’t staged takes precedence over emotional empathy with Raquela’s often sad experiences. Occasionally that feeling is transcended – her experiences in taking an HIV test, for example – thus provoking a seasick sense of uncertainty.
Its subject matter could so easily made this an exploitative experience had the naturalistic, observational tone been overridden by an altogether cruder sense of humour. While it’s occasionally funny, the jokes arise through Raquela’s personality or the extraordinary circumstances that she finds herself in rather than simply because she’s a transsexual.
Inevitably for an apparently part-improvised semi-documentary, the story’s structure is erratic. Much of her time in Iceland is flashed through with a montage sequence, while the circumstances leading up to the film’s relatively upbeat closure are only vaguely conveyed. It’s a fair compromise in exchange for the brevity that de Fleur’s “visiomentary” genre demands.
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is certainly very unique and ultimately grasps the vast majority of its objectives. An “amazing truth” it clearly isn’t, but it’s a modern fairytale tempered with the suffering, sadness and uncertain emotions of real life.
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela can be viewed at the Poppoli Pictures shop.
“He takes pictures for a ladyboy website… He’s clean and honest.”