Filipina filmmaker’s docu on transsexuals wows US film-fest goers

By , on September 23, 2014

"Shunned"movie poster (from the Facebook page of Shunned)
“Shunned”movie poster (from the Facebook page of Shunned)

A misconception of transsexuals – especially those living in her home country, the Philippines – is what drove Filipina filmmaker Janice Villarosa to shoot the documentary that is now taking the US film festival circuit by storm.

“Shunned” is a film that sheds light on what is still considered taboo in more conservative circles.

Shot in reportage style at one of the country’s beauty contests for transsexuals, the film depicts the lives of “ladyboys” in the Philippines. It profiles “ men who surgically alter and enhance their physique and appearance in order to fulfill the desire of transforming into “perfect” women.

“Shunned” showcases flashy musical performances, glitz and kitsch, racy yet glamorous costumes, and seductive dance numbers.  Yet it also delves into more intimate moments: tearful confessions of pain, rejection, and even of violent pasts.

Villarosa explores this “part-doll, part-diva” social phenomenon – fast-spreading across Southeast Asia and other parts of the world – in a poignant and meaningful manner.

She admits it has forever changed her perspective.

“I started this project over three years ago, not knowing anything about transsexualism. I did not know how to react toward transsexuals and I admit I myself had my own reservations. I had that negative reaction and I wanted to change it. The only way I knew how was to enlighten myself by surrounding myself with them and get to know them. This documentary has changed not only me but also my crew as well,” Villarosa said.

She shares her hopes that this film would become a platform for transsexuals; their voice to the rest of the world.

“I am passionate about this film as I believe people need to see it. I told my transfriends to use this film as their voice. So many of them have been victims of hate-crimes and a few of their friends killed. Especially with hearing all these crimes happening all over in the US and worldwide, the more I had to do something about it. We are all the same—human. The difference is that they go through people’s judgement EVERY DAY of their lives. I hope with this film, their voice will be heard,” she added.

“Shunned” is one of 5 Filipino films to be screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival, on Oahu Island  from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9.  The four others are: (Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s “Hari ng Tondo,” Eduardo Roy Jr.’s “Quick Change,” Zig Dulay’s “M (Mother’s Maiden Name),” and Real Florido’s “First Ko si Third”).