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Sunday Beauty Queen – A MediaConnex Film Review

Baby Ruth Villarama’s “Sunday Beauty Queen” is a revelation.

The first ever documentary to be featured in the 41-year history of the newly revamped Metro Manila Film Festival’s line up, Sunday Beauty Queen takes us into the world of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong and how their organized Sunday pageant activities serve as a lively counterpoint to the work routine they must go through the other six days of the week.

Though their lives are often filled with bouts of homesickness, the constant consideration for the needs of a family back home, and fraught with dealing with unjust employers (should one be so unlucky), you do not feel coerced into having to feel any one way for these women, and pity is the least of the emotions that comes to the fore while watching this lovely documentary.

The grueling hours would make one think that come Sunday, all these ladies would like to do is put their feet up and have a nice cold drink. The fact that these women find a way to celebrate life and beauty on their one day off work is quite astounding.

The Sunday pageants give us a glimpse into their world, lightly touching on topics such as curfews and employment policies without getting too preachy about the current laws enforced in the city state. In the hands of a less capable filmmaker, this would have quickly devolved into the cliché of the overseas worker that we think we all know. Instead, we are given a new perspective with which to view this reality from, and a beautiful and resilient one at that.

There are moments where your heartstrings are inevitably tugged at, where you cannot help but feel for each woman. You leave the theatre with the notion that as complicated as these employer-employee relationships are, in the end, both sides are composed of individuals with their own dreams and aspirations just trying to make a living, with one side needing the help of the other in order to keep their world turning.

There is no self- conscious posturing, and no heavy-handed platitudes are hammered down on the audience. You are allowed to consider your own thoughts as you follow these lives play out on screen.

For anyone who currently feels that the world is in shambles, it would be worthwhile to seek out this gem of a film as it restores hope in our hearts, gently reminding us how even the smallest of jobs can have widespread ramifications of the rest of society, and how, with a little empathy, we can all appreciate the unique contributions of each individual in it.

Everyone can, indeed, be a beauty queen. Bravo ladies.

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Sher thinks she may have been a cat in a former life. She keeps her sanity by writing, watching films, and indoor climbing. When time and money permit, she packs a bag and her laptop for the next town on her bucket list.

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