The 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has raised its standards and enabled independent films to be widely released in the Philippine cinemas from December 25, 2016 – January 3, 2017. Included as a full-length film, Jun Robles Lana’s “Die Beautiful” engages its audiences in a comedy-drama biography of a transgender woman.
Trisha Echevarria is a transgender woman whose life-long dream is to be crowned in a beauty pageant. When she finally won the title, Trisha unexpectedly dies. Her final request was to be made up as different celebrities on each day of her funeral. As the week goes by, her family and friends reminisce the life Trisha has led.
Die Beautiful did not shy away from the real and accurate life the LGBT community faces at this age. Fleeing from the usual comedy we expect in a transgender-centered film, Lana has put content, meaning, and essence to Trisha’s character. Being a mother, a lover, a son, a friend, and a queen, we were able to get a glimpse of all that while having a laugh, doing a sob, and/or giving sympathy.
The colorful aspects of the movie truly enabled us to view Trisha’s moments of hope, enthusiasm, and spirit. From the vivid tones of the beauty contests to the rich hues of her everyday life, Trisha has never failed to amuse the audience with her quirky sense of humor, vulgar language, and tactless attitude – in which, I believe, every member of the LGBT possesses, and I mean it in a good way.
In my delight, the most realistic part of this film is Trisha’s ever-strong and sturdy personality that mirrors our LGBT friends’ lives. Despite her hardships and obstacles in life, she knows when to cry and weep but more so knows how to get back up and recover. Her father’s unaccepting persona, a torn innocence at a young age, and other harsh realities have made Trisha an irrepressible being we can’t help but love.
The two-hour film begins with Trisha’s aspiration to be a beauty queen, and then… her death. Die beautiful celebrates the glamorous life and fabulous death of Trisha Echevarria.
Director, Cast, and Cameos
The people behind the film are to be commended for their hard work and abilities. Jun Robles Lana is, without a doubt, a good director. He knows how to produce a film worth watching. He knows how to put together wide shots and close ups. As part of the LGBT community himself, he has a grasp of the experiences he directed in this film.
Portraying the transgender lead, Paolo Ballesteros – who has won three (3) acting awards both locally and internationally for this performance, gave justice to the character of Trisha Echevarria. Being a straight guy, Ballesteros playing as a transgender was difficult. Even more when he was in a coffin playing dead. He also showed his make up prowess by copying the faces of different celebrities. I applaud his skills and he truly embodied what it means to be one with the character. And I admit, he’s so beautiful!!!
Trisha’s bestfriend portrayed by Christian Bables, is the type of person you’ll need in your life. A supportive, encouraging, and over-protective BFF is enough to enjoy life being a transgender. Bables’ acting stint won him in MMFF 2016 as Best Supporting Actor alongside Ballesteros’ Best Actor award.
Big names such as Joel Torre and Gladys Reyes, as well as the special participation of Eugene Domingo and Iza Calzado suited their roles and were chosen wisely. Indeed, their execution and excellence in their craft inspired us to appreciate high-caliber films.
Story, Editing, and Cinematography
Die Beautiful‘s storyline is as beautiful as Trisha’s life. It was written by focusing on the three main parts – the beginning, middle, and the end. The beginning was Trisha’s dream of winning a title and a crown that held an important purpose of her life. The middle was her turning point in life. The end was the film’s drive towards the conclusion of Trisha living a beautiful life. If I may add, the script (dialogues) is captivating, funny, and full of emotions.
One thing that concerns me is the lack of depth in the other characters’ involvement with Trisha. The film was long but the relationships with her family, friends, and lovers were insufficient. Their links were cut short and we don’t know what happens, which I think is a way for the viewers to analyze it themselves and make them realize that death may not be the end of all.
When it comes to editing, the plot was told not in a chronological manner which maybe viewed as confusing. The continuity is a significant matter but the film points out a concept. These moments are Trisha’s highlights. It could be interpreted as Trisha’s flashbacks before her death. And yes, no one knows what it feels like to be dead but, it could be assumed that these were her vivid memories as she took her last breath. These are her puzzle pieces being brought together to make a whole picture that tells her story.
I liked the production design, the setting, and the tones of the film. The aesthetic feels give off the vibrant life Trisha has led. Darker tones for challenging scenes and bright hues for lively, jazzy parts. It is usually overlooked but the way in this movie it fuses with the characters, the artistry was pleasing to the eye.
I have been waiting for this film since Paolo Ballesteros won the Tokyo International Film Festival 2016 Best Actor award. It was far from what I imagined it to be but, it exceeded my expectations. In the Philippines, usually, indie films have a much higher quality than the mainstream ones. True enough, Die Beautiful is one of them.
I have never seen a movie centered on a transgender. Trisha’s life was tragic as it was full of harsh realities. This happens in real life and we just keep turning a blind eye on them. Quoting Ballesteros on his Philstar interview, “We are very tolerant when it comes to the LGBT community, but tolerance is far different from acceptance.”
I have friends who still think that being gay, lesbian, or trans is an insult. Although it may mean as a joke, it is very offensive to the LGBT. If this is the wizarding world, they portray mudbloods and we are deatheaters. We want to eradicate them as if it was a sin to discover self-identity. And yes, we still keep doing that even unintentionally.
So this movie, is an eye-opener to everyone, as it is their aim in producing this masterpiece. We keep on babbling about respect, acceptance, and equality yet we are very discriminating when it comes to the LGBT. It is time to embrace our friends and treat them the way we want to be treated. Congrats, Die Beautiful, in sending this message successfully for all of us!
*Pictures were screenshot from Die Beautiful movie trailer