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Mimi Chakarova talks about making “The Price of Sex”

Documentary film-maker and photojournalist Mimi Chakarova talks about her film, the Price of Sex, which screened in London this week as part of the Human Rights Watch Festival 2012.

Chakarova describes how it took her four years to persuade some of the East European women who’d been sold into sex slavery to tell their stories on camera. They describe being duped by promises of well-paid jobs abroad into leaving their homes and lives in poor parts of Bulgaria and Moldova.

It’s a brutal tale about how poverty makes young women vulnerable to traffickers’ promises, leading them to become trapped inside the virtual cells of brothels and bars in Athens, Istanbul and Dubai.

“You don’t make a film unless you feel that there’s a possibility to change things,” says Chakarova, who branched into film-making having reached what she felt were the limits of photo journalism.

“It’s depressing subject matter but you have to turn it around,” she said, urging everyone to watch and learn from The Price of Sex. Though the film features only a few cities, she makes clears its stories play out every day on streets around the world.

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The Price of Sex


I’m set to interview Mimi Chakarova today, the maker of this film about the sex trafficking of East European women.

It’s a tough tale about how poverty makes young women in former Soviet bloc countries vulnerable to the promises of well-paid work as waitresses abroad, only for them to be trapped into prostitution.

I watched it last night, ending with a feeling of hopelessness. It’s hard to see how to make a difference in the face of so much misery, wrapped up in such shame and taboo. One quote that struck me particularly came from a male human rights campaigner in Dubai, one of the more blatant destinations for those inadvertently trapped into sexual slavery.

“This is about capitalism – you invented it, you brought it into the world we are just being the latest students of the system,” he said of his country’s lax approach to the sex trade.

The film’s great strength is that it goes beyond the personal stories of those women who are brave enough to speak up, striking as they are. It also points a lens at the systemic, economic, cross-border factors that keep a constant supply of new women arriving on the streets of Athens, Moscow, Dubai and countless other cities where money is easier than in the victims’ native lands.

We shouldn’t turn our heads away.

 

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