Miss Universe in Jail
Interwoven with a story of a father and his son is a film about five gay inmates who, ironically, gain a sense of freedom inside the jail.
The Pampanga Provincial Jail (PPJ) was built in the Philippines more than a century ago. Just a two-hour drive away from Manila, the jail is currently housing more than 2,500 inmates. Forty of these inmates are part of the Gay Inmates Organization, a group created to offer the detained members of the LGBT community a space for social support and a space to encourage diversity and stop discrimination.
The two queer filmmakers follow five gay inmates: Sammy, a former military officer from the Philippine Air Force; Roca, a convicted inmate awaiting for transfer to the main insular penitentiary in Manila; Megan Young, a flamboyant pageant-goer from southern Philippines; Erika, a recently detained inmate fighting for a case of mistaken identity; and Angel, a trans woman with a degree in Computer Science and a heart for many men inside the jail.
The film follows these inmates on their day-to-day activities that include ministry gatherings, dance sessions, sewing lessons, and make-up and hairstyling classes. It also captures the drama that unfolds behind their jolly exteriors: jail ‘marriages’, closeted boyfriends, inmates problematizing the family that barely visits them, as well as the most exciting and celebrated part of their lives as inmates: Miss Gay PPJ, an annual beauty pageant that is supported and funded by all their fellow inmates.
These stories are interwoven with animated sequences of a conversation between a father and his son talking about life, missed opportunities, religion, and sexuality, serving as antitheses to the images of the jail and the lives of the inmates—a juxtaposition of connected stories and forms, as one scene bleeds into the next.
Miss Universe Is in Jail (BB Detainee) is an acknowledgement of how idiosyncratic our notion of freedom is.