Netflix Doco Binge – Love, Sex and Immigration
So it’s another marking week, which means more documentaries! Recently we’ve looked at people who helped make the internet, nerd culture and, of course, porn (weirdly the one with the least likes and comments, but the most views). Today we’ve got another two films. Both are about romance and sex, and both are about industries spawned out of immigration and no end of exploitation. We’re looking at Love Me and Sex: My British Job.
Love Me follows a small group of lonely hopefuls who are customers of an international dating site. Some are divorced, some or widowed, some are socially incompetent and all or desperate to make a connection. We begin with the owner of the dating company and his wife, a ‘mail order bride’ herself, and they endorse the effectiveness of the system. The men all sign up for a quick tour of the Ukraine, attending social functions and meeting the women they’ve been emailing back and forth, hoping to walk away with a fiancee.
Things do seem to starting out well. There’s a couple of comments about the cost of the service with US$10 being plonked down for every email sent or received and a couple grand for the tour, but it looks like it’s going to pay off. Some of the blokes are expecting to meet someone they’ve been communicating with long term and the social events have 20 women to every 1 guy. Knowing that in the Ukraine there’s only 87 women to 100 men, and marriage is culturally expected at an early age, the women really are throwing themselves at this chance at a better life through marriage. These nerdy, largely attractive men suddenly find themselves living a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ video, and some head out on dates with some women they’ve connected with.
As the movie winds on…it gets a little bit less optimistic. There’s clearly some scams being run here, not surprising with the amount of money and desperation on show. You’re going to feel sorry for these dudes. Even when they know they’re likely being strung along, when they’re staring the evidence in the face, they’re so lonely that they keep trying just in case there’s a chance it’s legit. One potential bride even says to the camera that she’s got a few guys on the line at a time because it gives her kids the chance to go on holidays overseas. Boy, doesn’t she get a surprise when her shunned new husband turns up at her doorstep planning to move in.
Thank god some of the subjects get a happy ending, otherwise this would be a bleak view of a world where on persons loneliness and desperation is another persons pay check. It’s a good docu and it’s easy to get invested in the stories. You’re not going to feel especially uplifted by the end but it gives insight into an unusual business.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN
Down a much murkier path lies Sex: My British Job, a look into prostitution and brothels involving illegal immigrants in London. Without official papers and little legal protection these women are set up for exploitation and abuse. We follow a journalist going undercover as an immigrant working as a housekeeper in an illegal brothel and filming the entire experience with a camera hidden in her glasses.
This causes a few problems right of the bat. For one, the majority of the movie is going to be headache inducing wonky, low frame rate vision. Secondly it puts the film in an ethical grey area. The film makers imply that by exploiting the rights of some means that brothel owners have no rights either and are happy to broadcast their lives to the world – right down to footage of them changing their clothes. Remember this is people in their own homes being filmed by secret camera by someone claiming to be someone else. They also seem weirdly selective about who does and who doesn’t get their faces blanked out. Some of the girls do and some don’t, and the same applies to the customers. How much you accept this film will be influenced by how much you are bothered by this.
Our journo asks some of the girls she encounters about their experiences, including how much they get paid, how long they’ve been doing it and how old they are. She looks into a few locations before settling at a brothel run by immigrant Mary, who has little empathy for her workers. We only get glimpses into the lives of the workers as the camera is primarily focused on Mary and the experiences of the undercover journalist. This winds up being the primary plot thread, as she is put under increasing pressure to become a sex worker. Mary torments her, abuses and bullies her until the journalist admits to feeling suicidal and trapped. You have to wonder at what point they were going to pull the plug on this experiment.
Even if you believe that exploitation cancels out exploitation, you have to wonder what the point of this investigation was. We learn that people in a vulnerable position get exploited by immoral people with power. It’s shocking to see it play out, but the film makers don’t look at the larger picture, the social issues resulting in this set-up or even the story of those already involved. The film culminates with them confronting the brothel owner and her dickless boyfriend but it doesn’t amount to anything. Unless you’re in it for the shock value or are completely clueless about the illegal sex trade this doesn’t have much to offer.
Rating: FOUR out of TEN