Olaf de Fleur Johannesson’s Queen Raquela employs a creative near-documentary style to explore the world of the Filipino ladyboy with compassion and objectivity.

Raquela Rios, an authentic ladyboy that de Fleur discovered in Cebu City, dreams of living a posh life in Paris. She struggles to work her way up in the world, emerging from the scourge of prostitution as one of the “lucky” few to work for an Internet porn site. Quickly, she proves herself among the elite, winning the admiration of the Web site’s owner, Michael, who offers to take her on her dream rendezvous in Paris.

Valerie, an Icelandic-born ladyboy of Filipino descent, helps Raquela get to Iceland, where she works menial jobs and discovers the normalcy denied her at home. At last she has her bittersweet and altogether too brief encounter with Michael and Paris.

The film is manipulated enough to be fiction, yet steeped in enough fact and honesty to fool the unknowing into thinking it a true documentary. It contains stunning moments of both hilarity and heartbreaking realism, but most important, it sheds light on the culture and struggles of the transgendered in the developing world.

Grade: B+

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela releases in select theaters Sept. 26.