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‘Sunday Beauty Queen’ makes history at MMFF

JUST A THOUGHT: “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears, your actions louder than your words, and your faith stronger than your feelings.”

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BEAUTY QUEENS FOR A DAY: A year or so ago, while covering the Philippine participation in the Hong Kong International Film Festival, I came across a familiar face in one of the fest’s many side events.

Sensing my initial wonderment, she re-introduced herself to me. Turned out she was one of my former students, among the brightest of them all, Baby Ruth Villarama (now Gutierrez).

Baby Ruth, who has reinvented herself as a documentarist after working as a journalist for ABS-CBN, was in Hong Kong to do a new film, something about Filipino domestic helpers staging a yearly tradition, the search for their own beauty queens.

Baby Ruth told me the story fascinated her entirely that she has decided to make a full-length documentary film on the subject. She said she had been coming and going to Hong Kong to document the festivity, tracing its development from day one to finish line, which usually takes a few months.

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REALITY FILM MAKES HISTORY: The next time I met up with Baby Ruth, it was in definitely more heartwarming circumstances.

At the formal announcement of the 8 official entries to the 2016 MMFF, her Hong Kong-shot film “Sunday Beauty Queen,” was among the lucky chosen few.

SBQ will go down history as the first reality-documentary film to ever make it as an official entry to the MMFF. That in itself is a landmark signalling a season of change for the festival.

In an interview, Baby Ruth said she was beside herself with disbelief upon learning of her film’s feat. She expressed hope that moviegoers shall take to the film not only for its informative value but also for the sheer entertainment it can provide.

SBQ features real-life people, Pinay domestic helpers all.

“Their stories will move as well as entertain you,” the director says.

As the film’s flier puts it: “Beneath Hong Kong’s glittering façade, Filipinas working as domestic helpers work in relative anonymity and for near slave wages. In this beauty pageant like no other in the world, five helpers give themselves makeovers for a day and gleefully reclaim their dignity.”

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APPLAUDED INTERNATIONALLY: “Sunday Beauty Queen” follows a particular yet universal tale of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). They are Filipino maids who dream to become Hong Kong’s beauty queens for a day.

The film made its world premiere when it competed last October at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival, where it earned rave reviews from international media.

Industry bible “Variety” hailed the film as “an engaging documentary on Filipina overseas workers’ self-empowerment through beauty pageants.”

Villarama, who also wrote the film, said she is honored and excited to share the film with Filipino audiences.

“At the heart of the film is family,” says Baby Ruth.

“Sunday Beauty Queen” is produced by Voyage Studios and TBA (Tuko Film Productions, Buchi Boy Entertainment, Artikulo Uno Productions), the same team behind last year’s box-office and critical hit “Heneral Luna.” (NESTOR CUARTERO)

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