FRANCHESKA: PRAIRIE QUEEN, 64min., Canada, Documentary
Directed by Laura Lynn O'Grady
It's hard to be a superstar when you have a midnight frontline shift to show up for. Francheska: Prairie Queen follows the journey of Filipino care worker Francis (Kiko) Yutrago, as he tries to achieve drag star superstardom while still financially supporting his family back in the Philippines. Adding complexity to his quest is where Kiko and his fiancé Cody choose live: a tiny bible belt town in southern Alberta, population 956.
When a typhoon hits Kiko's island home and destroys his parent's house, he looks to his drag persona Francheska Dynamites to bring in the extra cash they desperately need. Francheska enters an LGBTQ Filipina beauty contest hoping to win the prize money. It becomes obvious that the other beautiful contestants, who are all trans women, will be tough to beat. Past memories of trauma and triumph are brought to the surface during the preparation for the pageant, and Francheska Dynamites blooms into much more than a talented lipsyncer.
I knew Francheska Dynamites was a star the first time I saw her. It was a cold, windy afternoon, and she had taken the stage of a nearly deserted Pride event in a small Alberta town. The lack of audience didn’t deter her, she flipped, sung and strutted like she was the biggest star in the world. She taught me about the huge Filipino audience for LGBTQ performances and beauty pageants.
I knew I could not be the only person who tried to tell this story. Gratefully Rosman Valencia joined our team as a producer and educated me on the complexities of growing up queer in the Philippines. The pageant community graciously welcomed our crew, and talented Filipino designers allowed us to use their fantastical creations.
At the heart of the project was Francheska/Kiko; an inspiring young queer man who has overcome enormous challenges only to remain joyful and optimistic for his future. His immigrant story may read as unique, yet the universal truths of identity, human perseverance and family bonds were discovered amongst the wigs and lashes of his crammed drag room.