The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is a quasifictional film that employs traditional documentary technique to tell the story of Raquela Rios, a Filipino transsexual woman who dreams of leaving her limited existence as a part-time streetwalker in Cebu City and starting a new life in Paris. After meeting Raquela while visiting Cebu City, director Olaf de Fleur Johannesson decided to make a movie about her life and experiences. Not interested in shooting a documentary but lacking the funds for a traditional fictional narrative feature, Johannesson mixed the two genres together: casting Raquela and her friends (also transwomen) as versions of themselves and drawing upon some of Raquela’s real-life experiences, while constructing a largely fictionalized narrative based upon his personal research into the lives of Filipino transwomen. The narrative remains a mixture of fact and fiction, but the aesthetic (first person interviews; on-screen text with information on both Raquela and transwomen in the Philippines; distanced shots capturing on-the-fly conversations between Raquela and her friends) feels distinctly documentary. This “visionmentary,” as Johannesson deems it, wades into some shifty ethical waters, placing a uniformly nonfiction veneer over an undifferentiated mixture of real and imagined events. How is the viewer to know where Raquela’s actual experiences end and Johannesson’s researched assumptions and narrative prerogatives begin? If this remains an issue to be parsed, however, those who read the press release will be well informed with regards to the film’s fusion of fact and fiction, able to make an informed decision regarding the implications of….
Wait, what was that? Did I mean “film”? Of course not. Nothing in Johannesson’s film mentions any of the information told above, except for the plot description. A viewer will have to wait for the credits to roll before seeing that many of the roles are just that: actors performing for a director, as opposed to individuals being captured by a documentarian’s lens. Click here to read the rest of Matt Connolly’s review of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.