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Photo courtesy CIFF

CIFF 2022: A look into Francheska: Prairie Queen with director Laura O’Grady

By Nimra Amir, September 22 2022

It was a cold, windy afternoon when a drag queen had taken the stage of a nearly deserted 2018 Pride event in Medicine Hat to give it all that she had and more. She put on a show for those who were there that they would not forget. Her name is Francheska Dynamite — the subject of the Telus Original feature documentary, Francheska: Prairie Queen, which is set to premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) on Sept. 23. 

Since starting drag in 2017, Filipino front-line health care worker, Francis (Kiko) Yutrago, has performed at clubs, pageants and contests across Canada to achieve drag superstardom as Dynamite so that he can financially support his family back in the Philippines. He does this all while living with his fiancé Cody in a small town in what is considered to be the Bible Belt of southern Alberta. 

The Gauntlet spoke with Laura O’Grady, the director and one of the producers of Francheska: Prairie Queen, to learn more. 

“I saw Francheska and I saw how hard she was working, how dedicated she was to her craft of drag,” she said, referencing the 2018 Pride event in Medicine Hat. It was only a few months from then that development on the project had started. 

“I am always amazed at how fortunate I’ve been that when I ask somebody ‘Hey, can I do something on your life?’ how often they say ‘yes.’ For me, being allowed into people’s lives and collaborating with them on telling their stories is the greatest privilege,” she said. 

It was Yutrago’s drag persona, Dynamite, that had sparked curiosity in O’Grady on the queer Filipino community and also the Filipino beauty contests — that are loved by many in the Filipino community. 

Although it was the curiosity that drew her to the story initially, she then met Yutrago out of drag — who she described as an inspirational, hardworking person who has overcome so many adversaries. 

However, she said, “I knew as a cisgender heterosexual White woman, I would never understand the complexities or community in which Kiko lived. I could absolutely ask a lot of questions and learn as much as I could, but I don’t have that life background.” 

This is when Rosman Valencia came on as a producer and cultural consultant in the early stages of development. They also tried to ensure that the crew was as diverse as possible.

“The Filipino community really welcomed us and trusted us to tell this story which I will be eternally grateful for,” said O’Grady.

It has been established that in the pre-colonial Philippines, those who were non-binary were considered to be especially important members of society and although prejudices as a result of colonisation have attempted to silence the community, they have persevered. In Canada, the FilipinX LGBTQ2S+ community not only exists but thrives and serves the betterment of our communities, despite the oppression that they experience. 

Francheska: Prairie Queen, amplifies the voices of the FilipinX LGBTQ2S+ community that have been silenced for too long — to show the perseverance of those like Yutrago who despite all uses his identity as a young queer Filipino man as a strength and not a weakness. 

To watch Francheska’s story on the big screen or online, you can buy tickets on the CIFF website.

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