Posted: August 10, 2006 in About Philippines

I watched this film last night at the Forum for the 2006 Melbourne Film Festival.  (This coming Saturday, I will be watching with friends, the much awaited the Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, also in the film festival).

Paper Dolls was under the category “Israel Films” – for it was written and filmed in Israel – although the whole story revolves around Filipino gay guys (or geishas!) who worked as caregivers to old and demented Israelites.  At night time they do drag shows as a form of expression and to cure their boredome and depression in a world that is so strange.  In a documentary film, with the perspective of a friendly Israelite, these group overseas Filipino workers represent the “core and the spirit of the Filipinos” in a foreign land.

 Highlights, Points of Interest:

  • At the synagogue, a caregiver amidst the the elderly orthodoxes, was also doing her thing (singing a tune in her Ipod) while watching her patient.

  • One fat caregiver surreptitiously changing her clothes in the hallway to emerge as one fat woman in drag wearing a black big gown for a night gala… walked nonchanlantly on the streets with her bags full of costumes for the show.

  • The show girls doing their thing while wearing their wardrobe made of newspapers.

  • Bitter sweet daughter-father relationship forged between a gay caregiver who cross dresses even inside the house and her old sponsor-patient who cannot speak and thought he hired a man but instead got a girl in dress in his house. 

  • Simple, funny, and sweet lives of these genuine people who have small dreams of just earning a living, helping other people, and just being themselves.

  • Going home and some finding opportunities in London and reviving the group.

  • How talented the Filipinos are in terms of adapting to a strange land – and how they were able to speak and read in Hebrews (or Japanese or Arabic for that matter!)

  • True friendship, camaraderie and love found in strange countries.  And as John Lennon wrote, “people are the same wherever you go… there is good and bad… in everyone”.  Bad as depicted by one Israel taxi driver who in his minute experience had hurled all shame against the Filipinos and the poor country.  But then, again.

  What can I say – but I cried a bucket! 


Watch the Video Trailer on this :





Throughout the world, struggling people cross borders illegally to find work and make a better life for themselves: Mexicans in the US, Turks in Germany and North Africans in France. But only Israel has a population of illegal Filipinos of indeterminate gender who care for the elderly Orthodox – and for whom they often become substitute children.

PAPER DOLLS follows five such men, refugees from families that reject them, who’ve made a home in Tel Aviv, Israel’s most swinging city. Fast friends, they spend their free time on stage, as the drag queen ensemble, Paper Dolls. A multiple-prize winner at the most recent Berlin Film Festival, the film takes a thoughtful, variously humorous and poignant look at people whose very lives redefine conventional notions of gender, family and love.With support from the Joan S. Constantiner Fund for Jewish and Holocaust Film 

Paper Dolls Bubot NiyarIsrael,

2006, 84 min, Color, 35mmIn Hebrew, English, and Tagalog with English subtitles

North American Premiere 

Directed By: Tomer Heymann

Screenwriter: Tomer Heymann

Producers: Claudia Levin, Stanley Buchthal, Tomer Heymann

Executive Producer: Maja Hoffmann

Cinematographer: Itai Raziel

Editor: Lavi Ben Gal

Music: Eli Soorani

Featuring: Chiqui Diokno, Jojo Diokno, Troan Jacob Libas, Sally Comatoy, Efrenito Manalili, Jose Neil T. Datinguinoo, Francisco P. Oritz Jr., Eduardo Javar, Chaim Amir



Immigration is an explosive issue in many countries, and no less so in Israel, especially given the nation’s volatile political climate. Following the Intifada in 2000, Palestinians were prohibited from working as domestics in Israel, which spawned a huge influx of foreign workers to the country, many from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Israeli documentarian Tomer Heymann’s film is a heartfelt portrait of one group of immigrants.In one of Tel Aviv’s most conservative Orthodox neighborhoods, a small group of transsexual Filipinos working as caregivers devote themselves to their elderly Jewish charges round the clock-except on the nights they perform in drag as the Paper Dolls.

Director Heymann spent nearly five years exploring their seemingly incongruous, often tender relationships with their employers, as well as their struggles with the local gay community and with immigration authorities.

The Dolls endure long hours and backbreaking work while living with the constant fear after a recent government crackdown of losing their work visas, and the subsequent possibility of arrest and deportation-not to mention the ever-present threat of suicide bombings.

Paper Dolls, which won the Panorama Audience Award at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, is a sensitive, complex portrait of a group of individuals who are perpetual outsiders, both at home and abroad..


  1. David says:

    Ok, I havent even seen the movie, and already I think it’s sad, that these geisha’s come from families who rejected them to a whole new country to take care of people who they themselves have been rejected. It’s actually kinda sweet. And it just goes to show that a real family isnt the one you’re born into. It’s the one you make for yourself. I wonder if this movie will premiere here…

  2. jase says:

    Hi David,

    “Ok, I havent even seen the movie, and already I think it’s sad”

    – It is sad in some sort of way. Only people who have experienced the situation would fully understand. Being far from your home and your comfort zone is one thing. Going to far-away land in order to earn a living is another issue. The question that most Overseas worker would end up asking is : “Why do we have to go away from home and be away for years and years in order to earn a living? Why could we not just stay home?”

    And Filipinos being very family oriented – are so emotional when it comes to this.

    “that these geisha’s come from families who rejected them to a whole new country to take care of people who they themselves have been rejected”

    – I am sorry to correct you, and even the description of the film itself. These people are not REJECTS or not rejected by their family back home. They chose to go and sacrifice their happiness and even sanity in order to earn and improve the lives of their families back home. Being gay in the Philippines is not a taboo – and although not as politically accepted as a mainstream like in most western countries – homosexuality is widely accepted, tolerated and even celebrated.

    “It’s actually kinda sweet. And it just goes to show that a real family isnt the one you’re born into. It’s the one you make for yourself. I wonder if this movie will premiere here…”

    – I would agree to this. A real family could be anyone that you have found comfort, peace and support your humanity, even a fellow blogger, perhaps🙂

    Thanks for your wonderful comment, as usual!

  3. tin-tin says:

    i hope it will be featured here in the philippines especially since the story revolved around filipinos.

    it’s really sad for those who work in another country against their will but can’t do anything about it coz of poor life. i just hope that their family would appreciate what their moms/dads are doing.

  4. duke says:

    The plight of Filipinos abroad is always a point of interest for me. I didn’t know there were pinoy “geishas” in Israel working as caregivers.

    I would love to watch this movie. ‘Off to see the trailer…

  5. Buffy says:

    This depresses me. But I depress easily these days so I never know if its the real deal…or just me.

  6. jane says:

    hope it will be shown here in the Philippines Jase

  7. jase says:

    hi tin tin: you’re right girl. Hopefully it will be shown in the Philippines for Filipinos to see. We had several OCW stories made into movies, but this one is a documentary and it was even shown as a TV series in Israel.

    duke: i can’t believe it either. there are pinoys everywhere. maybe if there are work available in the moon, then there you would still find some🙂

    Buffy: yes, it depresses me too. my friend who was watching the movie with me, was crying and could not stand after the movie was finished.

    jane: hope it will. i might actually write to the producers.

  8. Shellz says:

    Wow! That movie looks really intense and achingly beautiful. There are so many great stories to tell out there, and I love how documentary has become such a viable art form over the last few years. I will definitely check it out when it is released here, and I’m sure I will cry buckets too!

  9. seems to be an interesting movie when I saw the trailer. Well I hope I can see it soon!

  10. weird…are the comments moderated dear?

  11. Lyka Bergen says:

    Interesting movie. Thanks for sharing! I hope you’ll blog more recommendations like this one. Stay free!

  12. Kelly Carson says:

    Ay, I like. HmmHmmm. Talaga.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Award Winning Hollywood Director Wins For Documentary on Filipino Transvestite Caregivers in Israel

    In a small apartment in southern Tel Aviv, a group of Gay Filipino migrant workers meet every weekend. Throughout the week they work as caregivers of elderly Orthodox Jews in the Tel Aviv suburb and on weekends they performed before an audience of Fili…

  14. […] GIRLS … PAPERDOLLS! In August 2006,  I wrote about the Paperdolls – see my entry Paperdolls,  and that movie actually inspired me to pursue my desire to become a Drag […]

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