Sunday Beauty Queen (2016)

Sunday Beauty Queen (2016)

Expats find home in this beautifully balanced documentary on overseas work

7.6

Movie

Hong Kong, Hong Kong Japan Philippines UK Macao
Cantonese, Tagalog
Documentary, Drama
2016
BABY RUTH VILLARAMA, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Cherrie Mae Bretana, Hazel Perdido, Leo Selomenio
95 min

What it's about

Beneath Hong Kong's glittering facade, Filipina domestic helpers work in relative anonymity and for near-slave wages. In a beauty pageant like no other, five helpers give themselves makeovers for a day and gleefully reclaim their dignity.

The take

Sunday Beauty Queen starts with a basic but startling fact: there are about 190,000 Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. They toil for six days a week, with little breaks in between, but on Sundays, the one day they are given rest, they choose to take part in a fabulous beauty pageant.  

More than just a mere show, the pageant is a source of joy and relief for the migrant workers who, despite earning significantly more abroad than they would back home, are mired in a host of problems, including discrimination, loneliness, and underemployment. Because of the Philippines’ and Hong Kong’s stringent statutes, some helpers are also forced to go into hiding, unsure of who will protect them each time.

It’s to director Baby Ruth Villarama’s credit that the film feels both like a criticism and celebration of this migrant reality. She exposes the rotten system that forces these women to flee their country but doesn’t forget to highlight the humanity that keeps them going. This result of this deft balance is a story that is just as warm and exacting as any old home. 

Comments

Add a comment

What did you think? Who should watch it?

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

2046 (2004)

The inventive sequel to In the Mood for Love

7.7

Days of Being Wild (1990)

A dreamy rumination on the beauty of unattainable romance

8.1

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

A phenomenal film adaptation of the classic Chinese-American novel

8.6

Ilo Ilo (2013)

A Singaporean family struggles to live through the Asian financial crisis

7.8

Be Water (2020)

A sports documentary about the iconic martial artist, that feels more like a guide to living

7.6

Biutiful (2010)

7.7

The Bacchus Lady (2016)

A warm yet bittersweet drama about the margins of Korean society

7.6

Perpetrator (2023)

In this stunning feminist horror, an unruly teen with supernatural powers fights against the kidnapper of young women in their small town

8.1

Support Group Olympus (2021)

Olympians take group therapy, though the film needed work on its patient histories

5.5

Street Flow 2 (2023)

A mature family drama whose ideas on survival and society never come full circle

6.3

Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw logo

© 2023 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.