Chipping away at barriers, delicately

Four years ago, a transgender woman was murdered by an American military man in the Philippines. The only reason for the murder was her gender. That murder set film-maker Jun Robles Lana, himself a member of the LGBT community, thinking on the prejudice and hatred that leads to such incidents. The film Die Beautiful , the result of that thought process, does not involve a murder, rather it is the sensitive portrayal of a transgender woman, whose spirit remains alive even in her death.

The warm reception that Die Beautiful , part of the competition category at the 21st International Film Festival of Kerala, got here at each of its screenings is heartening in that it signifies a marked change in attitudes towards the LGBT community. This also has to be seen in the context of how politically incorrect portrayals of the community in our mainstream cinema has started receiving harsh criticism in recent times, unlike perhaps a decade back. The festival this year, which has a ‘gender bender’ package, with an array of films set around LGBT themes, has also been noted for the increased participation of transgenders.


Die Beautiful begins with the dead body of a transgender woman, with her face looking like that of Angelina Jolie, thanks to the make-up. Trisha Echevarria, an also-ran in transgender beauty pageants, dies soon after winning her first pageant. Friends from her community have joined together to fulfil her last wish, to be dressed up as a different celebrity on each of the nights of her wake, much against the wishes of her father, who still sees her in her old avatar of his son, Patrick.

Over the next one-and-a-half hours, the non-linear narrative takes us through different phases in her life, as the make-up on her face changes each night. Her early struggles, within the family and with the society outside, her dreams of winning a big pageant, her relationship with her adopted daughter and her love lives, are portrayed empathetically.

Convincing portrayal

When the film’s producer Ferdinand Lapuz revealed to the audience later that most of the actors are not transgenders, everyone seemed to be surprised. So convincing were the portrayals. Paolo Ballesteros, as Trisha, gives a top-notch performance. She has found success with the make-up in the outside world too, arriving at the Tokyo Film Festival red carpet with an Angelina Jolie make-up.

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Printable version | May 29, 2022 4:19:57 am |