Last night, S. and I walked up to the Newtown Dendy to watch the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras screening of Paper Dolls. This documentary film from Israel focuses on the lives of a troop of Phillipino transgender caregivers who have migrated to Israel as part of a foreign workers program to replace Palestinian workers no longer permitted to work in Israel after the second Intifada. The caregivers work for elderly orthodox Jews living in the orthodox quarter of Tel Aviv. By night they perform as "The Paper Dolls" in night clubs close to Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station.
It was a bit of a push for us to make it to the film. It was on at 9pm and S. is 39 weeks pregnant this Friday. She gets pretty tired in the evenings and sitting in a cinema seat for any length of time is uncomfortable. However, when I saw this film in the guide we knew it would be worth making an attempt to see it since it's the kind of film that will probably not get a mainstream release. This film was really touching and delved into a number of issues thoughtfully and sensitively. I found it quite confronting to see up close the experience of foreign workers living and working in a society in which they are not able to fully participate and which does not provide any of the protections afforded to citizens. The harsh migration policies that govern the status and movement of the foreign workers in Israel reminded me of the current Australian migration policies covering foreign workers on 457 visas. On top of this hard hitting political dimension, the film also revealed the difficulties and tenderness in the relationships between the caregivers and their Jewish employers and the various ways that the Paper Dolls negotiate and maintain their transgender identities and how the elderly clients come to accept them. I enjoyed it tremendously and highly recommend it.