Paper Dolls Background Information and Follow-up

After watching Paper Dolls, I was interested in learning more about the movie. Specifically, I was interested in how Tommer Heymann decided on documenting the Paper Dolls, and how the experience changed (if it changed) any of his outlooks and views regarding gender, sexuality, and immigration.

Paper Dolls won three awards in the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival: the Panorama Audience Award for a Feature Film, the Manfred-Salzgeber Prize, and the Siegessaule Reader’s Jury Award. Also in 2006, Paper Dolls also won Best Cinematography and Best Music at the Israeli Documentary Film Forum in, the Audience Award at the Pink Apple Film Festival, the International Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and Best Documentary at Cinemanila International Film Festival in Manila, Philippines. In 2007, Paper dolls received the International Jury and Audience Award at the Identities Queer Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 22nd Turin International GLBT Film Festival.

By following some of the award information, I was able to find an interview with Tommer Heymann by AVIVA-Berlin. The interview discusess Heymann’s experiences with the Paper Dolls, his outlooks on their situations, and how he got involved in this project.

He first heard of the Paper Dolls from a friend of his, producer Claudia Levin. She suggested directing a documentary about the Paper Dolls, and Heymann was surprised that he never heard of them. When he first started working with them, he was not completely comfortable. He explains, “I was born and grew up in a village with quite strict roles about how you should behave as a man and how you should behave as a woman. That is why I felt a distance to these men who mixed things up.” He explains that even though he is gay, he was never confronted with the issue of transsexuality. His feelings changed over the course of the documentary, and he says, ” Five years later, I am hugging them, we are having fun together, kissing, I don’t care about the attitude I grew up with anymore.”

The interviewer asks Heymann if he sees the Paper Dolls as men or women, and Heymann replies, “None of them have had an operation. One of them took hormones for a while. When I talk to Sally I see her as a woman, a woman born as a man. To Jan and Cheska I talk more like I would talk to men. But it’s not that important to them. They told me I could see them as masculine if I am more comfortable with it. They just want me to be true. And we didn’t take that too serious, we started to make jokes about that. I think humour is a good way to handle these things.”

The interview goes on to discuss the dangers, prejudice, and injustices of the Israel immigration system, the differences between Filipino and Israel care for the elderly, and follow-up information about the Paper Dolls.

The follow-up information in the interview was limited, so I did some further research. Chiqui, Giorgio, and Jan moved to London, where Chiqui became a head nurse, and Giorgio and Jan continued providing care for elderly individuals. The three performed as the “Paper Dolls from Israel.” Cheska was deported to the Philippines, where she works with her mother. Sally returned to the Philippines to take care of her mother and eventually moved to the United Arab Emirates to work as a hair dresser. On November 19, 2007, she was murdered. Tomer Heymann dedicated the proceeds of the screening to Sally’s family.

For follow up information, see: http://www.docnz.org.nz/newsletters/2007-10.html

For a transcript of the interview, see: http://www.aviva-berlin.de/aviva/content_Kultur_Film.php?id=6175

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