Film ex­plores lives of do­mes­tic work­ers

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

A DOC­U­MEN­TARY that takes an in­ti­mate look at the daily dra­mas of for­eign do­mes­tic work­ers has pre­miered at Asia’s largest film fes­ti­val, with its di­rec­tor push­ing a fresh per­spec­tive on the mil­lions em­ployed in homes across the globe.

“So much of what we hear and see about them is sen­sa­tional or nega­tive,” said Baby Ruth Vil­larama on the side­lines of the 21st Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in South Korea.

“I wanted to show them liv­ing their daily lives, with their own hopes and dreams, and hope­fully that will open up a di­a­logue about who th­ese peo­ple are, the role they play in the world to­day,” she said.

Vil­larama’s qui­etly en­gag­ing Sun­day Beauty Queen is in the run­ning for the ma­jor doc­u­men­tary prize in Bu­san and fol­lows a group of for­eign do­mes­tic work­ers in Hong Kong as they pre­pare to take part in an an­nual beauty pageant.

By shad­ow­ing their prepa­ra­tions for the event, while also get­ting a close-up look at their daily work rou­tines and the in­ter­ac­tion they have with their em­ploy­ers, the film gives rare voice to the wor­ries the women have over such is­sues as job se­cu­rity, pay rates, and the dis­tance be­tween them and their fam­i­lies back home in the Philip­pines.

“They work six days a week and yet they spend their only day off pre­par­ing and train­ing for this an­nual event – I wanted to know why,” said Vil­larama.

“The truth is that this event gives them a sense of iden­tity. It’s about this dream to be happy, de­spite their strug­gles, and we are all look­ing for a happy end­ing in our lives.”

Al­though ex­act num­bers from in­di­vid­ual na­tions are hard to come by, the In­ter­na­tional Labior Or­gan­i­sa­tion es­ti­mates there are around 50 mil­lion over­seas do­mes­tic work­ers em­ployed glob­ally.

They are a vi­tal part of the Philip­pine econ­omy, send­ing an es­ti­mated US$26 bil­lion home each year – or around 10 per­cent of the coun­try’s GDP.

Hong Kong em­ploys an es­ti­mated 300,000 for­eign do­mes­tic work­ers – the ma­jor­ity from the Philip­pines and In­done­sia.

Vil­larama’s film comes at a time when there is un­prece­dented at­ten­tion on their lives – both in that city and be­yond – due to a num­ber of high-pro­file cases of abuse by em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing one that re­sulted in a six-year prison sen­tence. In Yan­gon’s Kyauk­tada town­ship, han­dling of a re­cent case of abuse led four hu­man rights com­mis­sion­ers to re­sign.

But the Manila-based di­rec­tor said she was de­ter­mined to avoid such con­tro­ver­sies when chart­ing her doc­u­men­tary’s nar­ra­tive arc.

“I think au­di­ences are look­ing more for sto­ries that feed their soul a bit, and the best way to do that is to go into peo­ple’s in­di­vid­ual sto­ries and try to un­der­stand their jour­neys, rather than sim­ply look for sen­sa­tions,” said Vil­larama.

“I think that this is a way we can un­der­stand each other more. My own dream is that peo­ple ev­ery­where can un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion mi­grant work­ers ev­ery­where find them­selves in, work­ing a long way from home.”

The win­ner of BIFF’s Wide An­gle doc­u­men­tary com­pe­ti­tion will be an­nounced when the 10-day fes­ti­val comes to a close on Oc­to­ber 15. –

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