Reviews

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2012: ‘The Price of Sex’

★★★★☆

Many of us may know men who have at one time or another paid for sex. They don’t shout about it, nor do they go into detail, but it occasionally comes up in conversation that they went to Amsterdam or Thailand and slept with a prostitute. Yet many of these individuals would think twice about paying for that ‘erotic massage’ after viewing Mimi Chakarova’s excellent documentary The Price of Sex (2011), which focuses on the trafficking of Eastern European girls to countries such as Greece, Turkey and Dubai.

The majority of the girls come from impoverished backgrounds and backwater villages; money and opportunity is scarce and so they are enticed into leaving their families with promises of employment abroad as a waitress or cleaner but in reality, they are whisked from the airport and sold into a life of sexual slavery. Some are locked in cramped rooms and forced to see as many as 50 customers a day.

What’s more, the men rarely use protection and pregnancy is common. One girl interviewed describes how she was made to work when she was heavily pregnant because clients will pay double for a woman carrying a child.

It’s heartbreaking stuff, but although these women have been emotionally damaged by their experiences, it’s their strength and resilience that shines through. Chakarova herself is as tough as they come and whether she’s going undercover as a prostitute in an Istanbul nightclub or interviewing the Turkish policeman boasting about his conquests she remains, at least on the outside, cool as a cucumber. She’s also a very talented filmmaker who is willing to ask the difficult questions and get her hands dirty so hopefully she has more documentary ideas up her sleeve.

Harrowing subjects are always a hard sell but if you’re looking for an educational experience rather than frivolous entertainment, The Price of Sex will certainly broaden your mind.

For more info on the Human Rights Watch Festival 2012, visit ff.hrw.org.

Lee Cassanell