Transsexual caregivers for Tel Aviv's elderly might sound like an odd topic for a docu, but "Paper Dolls" is as straight as it is ortho-dox. Distilled from a six-episode Israeli TV series, pic mostly fails to transcend its ramshackle structure or penetrate the inner-lives of its subjects.

Transsexual caregivers for Tel Aviv’s elderly might sound like an odd topic for a docu, but “Paper Dolls” is as straight as it is ortho-dox. Distilled from a six-episode Israeli TV series, pic mostly fails to transcend its ramshackle structure or penetrate the inner-lives of its subjects. Gay fest slots are a cer-tainty on subject matter alone, but other auds will be restless. At sesh caught, viewers were decidedly enthusiastic.

When Israel closed its borders to Palestinian labor in 2000, an influx of 300,000 foreign guest workers flooded the country to fill the subse-quent shortage. Among them were a quintet of Filipino caregivers docu-helmer Tomer Heymann found while attending a gay nightclub.

The five (Sally, Cheska, Chiqui, Giorgio and Jan) all perform as a lip-synch act collectively known as “The Paper Dolls.” Their show is a once-a-week lark that compensates for the drudgery of the nursing for which their Israeli work visas have been granted.

Heymann documents the trans-sexuals’ day-to-day chores (feeding, bathing, etc., of the elderly in Tel Aviv’s most conservative suburbs) and the Christian faith that sustains them through their employment.

Heymann immerses himself in their lives with good intentions and some decidedly naive questions. Informa-tion elicited is largely unrevealing, but each interviewee displays an appealing dignity.

The filmmaker arranges an audition for “The Paper Dolls” with the owner of a prominent nightclub. For a while, it seems as if the group’s shared dream to succeed as professional performers may be fulfilled.

Pic ambles along, but narrative focuses and interest surges in the final 20 minutes when a change in eco-nomic conditions sees the Israeli government keen to expel foreign workers. With the stakes raised to possible deportation, the attachments and the sense of belonging these immigrants have established in Israel is suddenly challenged with wrench-ing results.

Unfortunately, even while the transsexuals accept the situation with good grace, the film fails to fully capitalize emotionally on their plight.

Helming is rough and lensing is DV murky. Print viewed was alleg-edly rushed through for Berlin; better quality prints are envisaged for future fests. Other tech credits do the job, but opening animated credits by Asaf Billet are decidedly impressive.

Paper Dolls

Israel-Switzerland

Production

A Claudius Films (Israel)/ Heymann Broth-ers Films (Israel)/LM Media (Switzerland) co-production in association with the Film Sales Co. (International sales: The Film Sales Co., New York.) Produced by Claudia Levin (Cala), Stanley Buchthal, Tomer Heymann. Executive producer, Maja Hoffmann. Directed, written by Tomer Heymann.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta-to-35mm), Itai Raziel; editor, Lavi Ben Gal; music, Eli Soorani; titles, Asaf Billet; associate producer, Andrew Herwitz. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama), Feb. 10, 2006. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Tomer Heymann, Giorgio Diokno, Francisco "Cheska" Ortiz Jr., Salvador "Sally" Conatoy, Chiqui Diokno, Toran "Jan" Jacob Libas. (Hebrew, Tagalog, English dialogue)
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more