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Will Paolo Ballesteros wear a gown in Tokyo?

/ 01:20 AM October 21, 2016
Paolo Ballesteros in “Die Beautiful”

Paolo Ballesteros in “Die Beautiful”

Inquiring minds would like to know: Will Paolo Ballesteros wear a gown on the red carpet of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival, which will be held in Japan from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3?

Ballesteros plays Trisha, a transgender beauty queen in Jun Robles Lana’s latest film, “Die Beautiful,” which is competing in the main section of the Tokyo fest.

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“That’s the big surprise,” Lana told the Inquirer. “Paolo doesn’t want to say. Abangan! (Watch for it!)”

Ballesteros has been featured in several international publications and TV shows for his mind-boggling makeup transformations. With a wave of a makeup brush, the actor-TV host can morph into any celebrity—from pop star Katy Perry and US First Lady Michelle Obama, to Oscar winner Julia Roberts and “Eat Bulaga” cohost Vic Sotto.

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Lana made fine use of Ballesteros’ makeup skills in the film.

So, will Ballesteros get nominated for best actor or best actress for this film?

“In whatever category he gets nominated, we will be very happy for Pao,” Lana said. “It will be a brave new world if a biologically male actor is nominated as an actress, and vice versa.”

The award-winning filmmaker described Ballesteros’ performance as “stunning and heartfelt.”

Lana recalled that his lead star “worked doubly hard” on the set. “I was mesmerized by Pao’s dedication. He’s a perfectionist,” he related.

It is not unusual for the actor to devote three hours to one makeover. “Sometimes, Pao would check the lighting of our cinematographer Carlo Mendoza and painstakingly redo his makeup, to maximize the light and shadow.”

In sum, Lana asserted, “Pao’s enormous talent, both as actor and makeup artist,” is nothing short of astonishing.

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For both the actor and the director, “Die Beautiful” is a passion project, in more ways than one.

Lana had just celebrated his first wedding anniversary with his husband, fellow filmmaker Perci Intalan, in New York, when he heard about the tragic death of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude in the hands of an American marine, two years ago.

“The unfortunate reaction of some people to Jennifer’s lifestyle and sexuality made me decide to do a film on the complex lives of transgenders,” he recounted.

Instead of rejoicing over the “progress” attained by the LGBTQ community on his wedding anniversary, Lana felt sadness over Laude’s fate, and “how quick people were to judge her.”

Lana, however, remains willfully optimistic. “What fascinates me is the unwavering optimism and zest for life of transgenders, even in the face of prejudice,” he explained. “It is important to keep telling the varied stories of the LGBTQ community until people accept not just some, but all of who we are.”

It isn’t coincidental that “Die Beautiful” will have its premiere in a country where many Filipino transgenders have found a welcoming place to work and live in. “Fudge Silva, our story consultant, worked in Japan for many years as a transgender entertainer,” Lana volunteered. “Her experiences inspired much of Trisha’s journey in the film.”

Lana’s most fervent wish is that the Japanese audience will embrace his latest film in the same way as his two previous entries at the Tokyo fest, “Bwakaw” (2012) and “Barber’s Tales” (2013).

“‘Die Beautiful’ is a universal story of marginalized people struggling for acceptance,” he noted. “I think audiences in every country will have experiences that are similar to what Trisha goes through in the film.”

Lana and Ballesteros also collaborated on the Viva romantic comedy, “Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?” which opened this week (Oct. 19).

The incessant shuttling between the indie and mainstream scenes seems to have become effortless for Lana. “There are actually less and less differences now [between indie and mainstream] – as it should be,” he said. “Mainstream stories are becoming edgier, and producers are willing to cast lesser known but exceptional performers as lead stars.”

Coincidentally, a film with a similar gay love triangle concept, “The Third Party,” opened a week before Lana’s rom-com.

Lana insisted on focusing on the positive in this intriguing occurrence. “It only means that people are really becoming more accepting of LGBTQ-themed movies, and that’s a welcome development in our society.”

Lana hopes to field “Die Beautiful” in this December’s Metro Manila Film Festival. Now, that would surely be groundbreaking.

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TAGS: Die Beautiful, Eat Bulaga, Entertainment, Paolo Ballesteros, Tokyo International Film Festival, transgender
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