SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN
Directed by Baby Ruth Villarama
Best Picture, 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival
Official Selection, 2016 Busan International Film Festival
One Sunday night, Filipino women in Hong Kong turned on the glitz and celebrated their cultures, their sisterhood, and their individuality by participating in a beauty pageant by and for each other. Later that night, one of the contestants, Rudelie, returned home to the Chinese family for whom she works as a maid, only to be fired for violating her curfew. According to Hong Kong law, she now has 14 days to find a new job or face deportation.
Rudelie’s ill-fated night is exemplary of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) life, where the harsh, thankless realities of domestic labor are interrupted by only momentary glimpses of play and fantasy. Baby Ruth Villarama’s loving SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN captures OFWs at work and during that one day of the week they get off, when, as any Hong Konger can attest, the women congregate in the streets to commune, crack jokes, celebrate birthdays, and even throw beauty pageants. At the head of the table is the smiling Leo, a queer godfather of sorts with a knack for solving problems, mounting events, and bringing people together.
Villarama captures so well the details of a life where there is little boundary between the personal and professional spheres. Relationships between maids and the families they serve come and go, often tearfully, and often reminding the women of the families they left behind in the Philippines. The balikbayan box, perhaps most melancholic of all, provides tactile connections across oceans. All of which makes the pageant that much more propulsive and emancipatory: the women dance, strut, and color their lives, self-fashioning their self-worth and entertaining each other to instill pride on Sunday and beyond. –Brian Hu
Filmmaker scheduled to appear
2013: Jazz in Love
2014: Little Azkals
Producer: Chuck Gutierrez