Here's three films you can watch (or in one case, cover your eyes during) this week at the Portland International Film Festival! Whore's Glory—a documentary on sex workers in the Global South, Water at the End of the World—an Argetntine film about two sisters' final journey, and Snowtown—a scarily realistic film on Australia's most infamous serial killings.
Director: Michael Glawogger (Austria)
Whores' Glory, a 2011 documentary from Austrian director Michael Glawogger, provides an intimate look at the lives of sex workers in three different cities in the Global South (Bangkok, Thailand; Faridpur, Bangladesh; and Reynosa, Mexico) through interviewing them about their work and talking with their clients. The sequences of women at work were at times are so stylistic that I forgot I was watching a documentary—the super-saturated color, multi-angle shots, and CocoRosie soundtrack might have had something to do with this. The documentary doesn't attempt to answer any big questions about sex work or sex worker rights in the Global South, but instead asks tired and incomplex questions about why sex work exists the way it does in these three cities, resulting in lots of interviews with men talking about why they like going to brothels (spoiler alert: because they like to have sex). While it's hard not to wonder how this documentary might have differed had it been made by someone other than a Western white man, the women interviewed in Whore's Glory are presented discussing personal experiences, frustrations, and hopes with honesty and humor, and it's these stories that make this documentary definitely worth your time.—Ashley McAllister
Thu, Feb 23 at 8:15 PM (Cinema 21) Tonight!
Water at the End of the World
Director: Paula Siero (Argentina)
Variety is right—it's hard to sum up Water At the End of the World without sounding completely cheesy. Younger sister works hard to achieve dying older sister's dream before she dies? Community comes together to raise money? Love and hijinks occur along the way?
The movie—Paula Siero's first—is much more than that. Handheld camera, blanched-out lighting, and great dialog make for a compelling (but not ugly) realism to this story. (If anything, that subway bathroom-stall sex scene will ensure you won't confuse it with any Hallmark special.) Adriana (Diana Lamas), who is rapidly succumbing to a terminal respiratory illness, wants to see Ushuaia—the southernmost tip of Argentina—before she dies. Each day that passes makes her younger sister Laura's (Guadalupe Docampo) quest to scrape up the funds all the more desperate. By chance, Laura meets and falls for Martín (a mangy, unshowered cross between Kevin Costner and Bradley Cooper, played by Facundo Arana), an alcoholic who plays accordian stone-faced on the subway to pay for his next drink. Their partnership seems unlikely, but is just what Laura needs to get through losing her sister. Adriana herself is no tragic victim—she unapologetically drinks, fucks, and smokes joints. The movie also doesn't shy away from showing the ugly realness of illness: vomiting offscreen, sweating in pain, and the heartache of leaving the ones you love. Aldri and Laura's relationship is the most devastating part of the film, and you'll probably watch the credits through tears, and not because of the breathtaking cliffs of Ushuaia.—Kjerstin Johnson
Thu, Feb 23 at 6:30 PM (Cinemagic) Tonight!
Sat, Feb 25 at 6 PM (Lloyd Mall 5)
Director: Justin Kurzel (Australia)
Winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Snowtown is a film-lovers film. The acting, directing, symbolism and imagery are amazing, but if you want a nice night out at the movies this is not the film to see. Based on the true story of Australia's most shocking serial killer case in which a dozen people were tortured, murdered, and their remains stored in an empty bank vault in a small town in South Australia, Snowtown is a long, lingering, meditation on violence that builds tension for two hours, only to end at the height of it. The violence is not gratuitous, but it is graphic, happening in real time. The camera holds focus on each scene, so you are forced to watch (or bury your head like I did, or leave the cinema like a lot of other people did). There are no tricks of camera angles or scary music to simulate violence; it is brutally realistic. The killings in this case were not male on female, or linked with any sexual violence (although some of the targets were men who were gay, or what the killers thought to be morally 'deviant' in some way). It was interesting to see a depiction of a serial killer with no known mommy issues, or vendetta against women. The film seemed to be commenting in a subtle way on the hyper-masculinity of rural Australian culture and almost mourned the absence of women and the unevenness of a way of life where a narrow view constitutes the norm. The film is a fascinating psychological study, both on the effects on the audience and the arc of the characters as we are see them (and ourselves) slowly consumed by this bleak, murderous, poverty stricken town in rural Australia. Not a film for entertainment, but as a piece of art… a very bleak, hard to watch, chilling piece of art. —Jyoti Roy
Fri, Feb 24 at 6:30 PM (Lloyd Mall 6)
Sat, Feb 25 at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
The 35th Annual Portland International Film Festival runs February 9-25 in theaters across Portland. Learn more at NWFilm.org.