Synopsis: BEAUTY QUEEN is a coming-of-age tale about a young woman living in the Philippines during World War II. The main character, Remedios Gomez-Paraiso, is also known as Kumander Liwayway (“Commander Dawn”), who was a prominent military commander in the guerrilla movement against the Imperial Japanese military during World War II in the Philippines. This guerrilla movement was known as the Huk Rebellion, and what was remarkable about this is that it was the first major political and military organization in the country to include and actively recruit women.
Remedios Gomez herself was a former beauty queen, and the daughter of a provincial mayor who was killed by the Japanese. She joined the rebellion and rose through the ranks to eventually lead the resistance's most successful military attacks. One of the most amusing and most enduring stories about Kumander Liwayway was the fact that “she always combed her hair, manicured and polished her nails, and applied lipstick before going into battle”. She made an active choice to retain both her femininity and masculinity, during a time when war crimes against women were rampant and feminism was barely a buzzword.
Festivals & Awards: Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival (2021) – World Premiere, Best Short Film; Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (2022) – Official Selection; Dances with Films Festival (2022) – Official Selection
Director Statement: Growing up, I had limited exposure to inspiring women who looked like me in the films I watched, and that void bore a burning desire to bring stories about Filipino women to life. Moreover, stories of war and rebellion are rarely— if ever— told from the perspective of Southeast Asian women, and I developed the film against a backdrop where women’s stories and experiences in history were and continue to be marginalized and slowly forgotten. I couldn’t imagine a better story than that of the true story of a beauty queen who transforms into a fearless resistance leader.