NYAFF 2023 Review: Where is the Lie?


As a middle-aged millennial with no real understanding of younger generations, I have taken an interest in films depicting youth as a way to try and learn about the unique struggles they face. We all have problems inherent to the generation we were brought up in and it can sometimes be difficult to convey that to your elders. Lord knows we’ve all tried to get a point across to our parents only to have them look dumbfounded.

That’s where a film such as Where is the Lie? proves useful. Set from the perspective of Gen Zers in the Philippines navigating the tricky world of dating, it gives older audiences a look into the problems that young adults are dealing with. The biggest of those issues? Transphobia.

While the film can be a bit blunt with its message, I have to say that I have a newfound respect for kids terminally plugged into technology. I would have died having to deal with this crap.

Where is the Lie ? | FEFF25 Trailer

Where is the Lie?
Director: Quark Henares
Release Date: January 22, 2023 (Slamdance Film Festival), July 22, 2023 (NYAFF)
Country: Philippines

Where is the Lie? begins with a TikTok post from its main protagonist, Janzen Torres (EJ Jallorina), explaining some truly awful experiences she dealt with. As an openly trans woman, she cannot seem to find someone that will respect her for who she is. She’s also fallen victim to numerous catfishing incidents, especially the one that makes up the rest of this film’s plot.

Cut over to Beanie (Maris Racal), a hoity-toity fashion director that is a transphobic piece of garbage. For some imagined reason, she is tired of the LGBTQ movement and wants to strike back. Using the power of the internet, she makes fake profiles on dating apps and catfishes trans individuals to humiliate them. Right from the get-go, the film makes it very clear that she is awful.

Janzen is unlucky enough to match on Sinder -this film’s non-copyright infringing take on Tinder- with one of Beanie’s creations. Using the talents of a young, dopey actor named Dennis (Royce Cabrera), Beanie envisions this man named Theo and strings Janzen along for months on end. There are a few points where she escalates things to devastate Janzen but then goes back for another round.

Where is the Lie?


It sounds like a really on-the-nose way to make a point, but there is a twist. Where is the Lie? is actually based on a viral post from a trans woman in the Philippines. While the details are embellished for film and the people involved have had their names changed, this story happened. There was a worthless excuse for a human that catfished trans individuals to get their rocks off a few years back. One woman had the courage to speak out and it resulted in some positive change for trans individuals dating.

As a biting satire of Gen Zers and online dating in general, Where is the Lie? doesn’t pull its punches. While I was initially dumbstruck by how outwardly transphobic Beanie is, I understand that the point is to show how nonchalantly bigots will throw around slurs. It gets hard to listen to her misgendering Janzen so much, but then people worse than her exist.

This is all brought out by a solid cast, even if I wish I could sucker-punch Beanie. Jallorina has a bright future ahead of her as she is able to deftly switch from pure joy to devastation on a dime. Racal, as well, completely sells me on Beanie’s sociopathic tendencies, though I really hope people don’t assume she is this hateful in real life.


Where is the Lie? mixes its satire with some comedy and it kind of works. I suppose I’m taking the plotline a bit too seriously, but the intention is clearly to make you laugh. Janzen has supportive friends who help her navigate the tumultuous waters of online dating with a mix of optimism and sardonic jokes. Beanie and her crew are also joking around with each other, even if that often comes at the expense of someone else. Her repeated line of, “Shut the fuck up, Christine,” to one actor got me, but more for how bluntly terrible she is.

Where I feel the film misses the mark a bit is with its efforts to humanize Beanie. I fully understand that even the most evil of transphobes are still people at the end of the day, but I do not feel sympathy for them. If you’re going to act maliciously towards someone based on their race, gender, or sexual orientation, you’ve lost the right to respect. That the film tries to show Beanie being sorrowful feels like maybe it wants viewers to understand the actress isn’t trash more than it serves any purpose for the story.

I was also expecting the movie to maybe reveal that Beanie is queer or bi, but that doesn’t happen. During one scene, Beanie gets one of her actors to portray Theo over the phone so that Janzen can have phone sex. Beanie gets hot and bothered by the conversation and goes to pleasure herself in a bathroom. That goes nowhere, though maybe it reveals how a lot of openly transphobic individuals secretly have fantasies about them. I’m not quite sure.


Towards the end of the film, as well, we also see society being generally terrible to Janzen, but then that seemingly doesn’t do anything. I don’t mean to imply that Janzen should get over it as trans individuals face very real threats of violence just for existing, but the film almost portrays one transphobic worker as being the reason Janzen told her story. It never really commits to that, however. There is a disconnect between certain events and story beats that results in the movie feeling scatterbrained.

That also happens when Beanie comes face to face with Janzen. After ripping her heart out in a particularly cruel bit of direction for Theo, Beanie approaches Janzen to help her feel better. While it works, for her, as a way to string Janzen along again, she forms an honest connection with Janzen that night. The two spend the night drinking and partying and having fun talking about how shitty men can be. Clearly, Beanie is a sociopath, but the movie isn’t really framing things that way.

I suppose that is ultimately the point. This kind of awful behavior is maybe expected in the trans community. At the end of the film, various clips of other trans individuals speaking about their terrible dating experiences are played. One person explains that trans people will cling to even the flimsiest of connections because they are so rare for them. If they aren’t being openly deadnamed or misgendered or threatened with violence, they are suffering through microaggressions simply because of who they are.


Janzen, as well, explains how she doesn’t wish the worst for Beanie. Beanie is awful and she probably has box seats reserved for her in hell, but Janzen simply wants her to find happiness. We all deserve happiness, she says, and that’s true. While I wouldn’t give Beanie the time of day, she can eventually learn to respect others and treat them with the kindness that she wishes she had. It won’t make up for the hatred she spread, but not perpetuating more of it would be a good start.

So I’m conflicted on Where is the Lie? The film comes from an honest place of wanting to put a spotlight on the struggles that trans individuals suffer through in our modern world. It’s also coming at a time where trans rights are being denied and bigots are flooding social media with their disgusting rhetoric. At the same time, it’s not the most tightly directed of films nor always the most consistent.

In a weird way, this movie reminds me of But I’m a Cheerleader. When I originally saw the movie more than a decade ago, I didn’t understand it. As a cishet white man that has never faced such oppression, it felt like an exaggerated series of events to make a point. Little did I know, gay conversion camps exist and they attempt to reprogram people from their natural biology. When you learn about the reality of people living in the LBGTQ rainbow, you understand that those stories need to be exaggerated to get others to pay attention.

I have a feeling that years from now, I will be warmer to Where is the Lie? as we learn just how common its story is. While Janzen isn’t a real person, I hope whomever she was based on has found the happiness she deserves. No one should have to go through the hell she did, especially not simply for living.




Where is the Lie? is a biting satire of Gen Z romance and transphobia, but its messy script keeps it from greatness.

Peter Glagowski
Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can't find him in front of a game, you'll most likely find him pumping iron.