A documentary film about the life and struggles of Filipino workers in Hong Kong has won the top two prizes in the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival.
“Sunday Beauty Queen”, directed by Babyruth Villarama and took four years to make, was adjudged as Best Picture and winner of Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Award at the 2016 MIFF Gabi ng Parangal held on Dec. 29 at the Kia Theatre in Quezon City. It made history as the first documentary film to win the top prize in the annual festival of films since it was founded in 1975.
The movie centered around the lives of Filipino domestic helpers who find fulfillment in participating in beauty pageants.
“Monday to Saturday, they don’t have a life, they’re like robots,” Villarama said of OFWs in Hong Kong.
“But on Sunday, they transform. This is how they want to live. These are dignified people. They need to have something for themselves”.
Upon receiving the top award onstage, she was accompanied by three OFWs who appeared in the film: Global Alliance chair Leo Selomenio, who is a veteran organizer of beauty pageants in Hong Kong, and perennial contestants Hazel Perdido and Mylyn Jacobo.
However, despite its win ‘Sunday Beauty Queen’ struggled to stay in Philippine cinemas. Outside the top earners, according to MMFF, theaters cut down on the number of screening cinemas the film. According to a report by ABS-CBN News, it is only screened in 24 Metro Manila theaters, three in Davao, two in Cebu and one in Iloilo.
OFW advocate groups have written an open letter to this year’s MMFF organizers, urging them that the award-winning documentary is shown in more cinemas, arguing that “Sunday Beauty Queen” is a “must-see” for families of OFWs as it is “replete with lessons that may also serve as a wake-up call to those aspiring to work abroad.”