Paper Dolls

Being back in San Francisco for a few days, I had a chance to catch Paper Doll, a documentary profiling a group of Filipino immigrants in Israel, working mostly as caregivers for the elderly.

The Philippines are, for some reason, great exporters of caregivers. Italy has a large such immigrant community, and so do many countries in East Asia. In Taiwan, for example, the exploitation of Filipino maids and caregivers made possible by immigration laws is a cause célèbre of leftist groups. The same legal problems arise in Israel, where a work visa is immediately voided if one is fired, resulting in illegal status and the possibility of deportation. Indeed, the same is true for software engineering on H1B visas in the US, but the difference in class, education, and type of employment (not to mention the possibility of permanent residency) does not quite create the same situation.

The main angle of the movie, however, is that the Filipinos profiled in the documentary are all transgender, and they have formed a group, called Paper Dolls, that performs drag shows at community events.

They are met with acceptance and prejudice in a way that is not always predictable. Their clients, including religious ones, are accepting (even though those working in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods are uncomfortable there). The relation between one of them and the elderly man that she cares for, in particular, is very touching. Their attempt to play their act at a big-name gay club in Tel-Aviv, however, ends in a disaster of cultural insensivity.

Eventually, the group disbands, partly because of the vagaries of the Israeli immigration laws, some of them going back to the Philippines, and some of them moving to London.

The movie does not quite have a point, and its own sensibility oscillates between exploitation and sympathy. If its point was to express this conflict, then it succeeds quite well.

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6 thoughts on “Paper Dolls

  1. One point that the movie has is to further the serious purpose of legitimizing homosexuality. By using the media, such as television and cinema, at every opportunity, homosexuals hope to gradually have their unnatural behavior accepted as being completely natural and normal.

  2. Toby Shandy:
    1) Your behaviour (writing such comments on a blog) is quite “unnatural”, as the amount of creatures in Nature behaving so is quite law.
    2) On the other hand the expression “their unnatural behavior” is incorrect concerning homosexuals: homosexuality is common between other mammals.
    3) Normality is a statistical artifact.

  3. A reactionary comment, but what else would one expect from a member of the gentry in 18th Century England?

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