PAPER DOLLS (BUBOT NIYAR)
Director: Tomer Heymann
Stars: Sally Comatoy, Chiqui Diokno, Giorgio Diokno, Troan Jacob Libas, Efrenito Manalili, Jose Neil T Datinguinoo, Francisco P Ortiz Jr
The Paper Dolls of the title are a group of pre-op Filipino transexuals who moved to Israel in search of opportunity. However, the Promised Land is not as promising as they may have hoped, and they find little beyond their paid work as carers for elderly othodox Jews
Miserably precarious situations are the order of the day: visas are dependent on maintaining employment and so getting fired also comes with being deported. No room to complain, then, about low wages and working arrangments that seem to waver somewhere between nurse, quasi-wife and, it is implied, concubine. Trips home are prohibitively expensive and in any case, depend on permission from employers.
A plan is hatched: of an evening, the workers dress in pretty bad drag and perform as a troupe called the Paper Dolls, hoping to gain formal employment as entertainers in the clubs of Tel Aviv and leave their vegetative charges to eat their dust.
Tomer Heymann’s intelligent documentary crafts a gently sentimental portrait of the flamboyant expats. He plays both documentarian and promoter, championing his talent-limited charged even after an ill-fated show at one of Tel Aviv’s hottest gay clubs sees the Paper Dolls booed out of the venue with their tails between their legs. When one of the Dolls gets deported, Heymann is the sole person to drive to the holding center to offer support and (vain) assistance.
Paper Dolls shows an Israel that is populated with trawling packs of illegal immigrants who string together existences around the central bus terminals and tenement blocks where the only space big enough to change clothes is the fire escape. Paper Doll’s greatest asset are the women of its title, courageous and resourceful souls who take every crippling setback in their stride.