Thailand_Prostitution_Film_Whores Glory
“Whores’ Glory” is Australian film-maker Michael Glawogger’s third documentary in a series including “Megacities” and “Workingman’s Death.” The film travels from Thailand to Bangladesh to Mexico into the lives of local prostitutes; three countries, three cultures, three religions – one profession.

At the Fish Bowl in Thailand, women sit behind a one-way glass fixing their hair and gossiping about their mothers until their number is called, signaling that their services have just been bought. On the other side of the glass a soon-to-be-client tells the camera how much he loves his wife and that he does this so he can respect her at home.

In the City of Joy, oral sex is forbidden since the mouth must remain pure for prayer. Contrary to their patriarchal religion, the madam’s word is law inside the ghetto, and women run every facet of life, from the adolescent girl flirting and laughing in the alley to the retired prostitute who now serves as a maid and cook. Indentured girls call up their ‘sweethearts’ to demand more visits and save their money to one day buy their own girls.

In the red-light district of Reynosa, Mexico, a prostitute and her john allow their entire interaction to be filmed, which proves to be, as one critic wrote, “as sexy as buying half a pound of roast beef at the deli counter.” Another woman describes how she no longer fears death because Lady Death is watching over her and promises smooth deliverance.

The film offers no judgment, neither on the prostitutes nor their customers. A young Bengali girl stares boldly into the camera asking if there is no other path for women to take; clients transform from misogynist cronies to shy romantics once doors are closed – suggesting that where women have the fewest options, it’s the men who are the most confused.

Glawogger believes that “the female/male relationship of any given culture can be depicted in prostitution,” but without interviewers or a concluding theme, the film is left largely open to interpretation.

The New York Times calls the documentary “a melancholy film that begins in an outer circle of hell and works its way to the depths,” while a writer of Salon thought it demonstrated “tremendous compassion, and more than a few moments of piercing clarity.”

The powerful documentary illustrated tenderness where none was asked for, powerless women who have held on to their faith and hope of a better future for women who had no reason to expect one.

Lydia Caswell

Sources: Whores’ Glories, The New York Times, Salon
Photo: Mother Jones

One in three Senegalese girls are married before the age of 18, while the number worldwide nears 14 million. These girls are at a higher risk for abuse, health complications and dropping out of school. Tall as the Baobab Tree is being screened in villages in Senegal to promote dialogue and understanding between generations. This internationally acclaimed film is set in the Senegalese village Sinthiou Mbadane and follows two sisters who are the first from their family to attend school.

1. Respect for Elders vs. Dreams for the Future

In the film, the older sister, Coumba tries to save her younger sister, Debo, from being sold by their father into an arranged marriage. New and old worlds collide as the sisters struggle with whether respecting their elders has to mean betraying their own future. In countries like Senegal where education is becoming more accessible, it is important to engage in dialogues about the dangers associated with child marriage.

2. Dialogue can Positively Influence Attitude

The dialogues about child marriage have the potential to change the attitudes of village elders and leaders, who play an important role in determining the fate of children in the community. The film and the surrounding dialogues help girls in Senegal to realize that they are not alone in their struggle. The dialogues presented by the film are respectful towards girls and families, with the ultimate goal of bridging the generational misunderstanding.

“The main experience that this film focuses on is educating versus early marriage, which seems, in my experience, to be the single biggest challenge that this younger generation faces, coming from these traditionally conservative, rural villages,” said director Jeremy Teicher.

3. Grow Roots at Home to Strengthen Your Community

Because of poverty, a family may feel obligated to either send their children from a village to a large city to find work, or to marry off their daughters to older, wealthier men. With the help of Plan International (, children in Senegal have been able to stay in their home villages and either learn or work. The organization help set up training courses in needlework, hairdressing and metal work in villages to give children vocational opportunities. In this way, the children are able to grow up to be supporters and active community members in their villages.

Haley Sklut

Sources: The Guardian, Tall as the Baobab Tree, Voice of America
Photo: View of the Arts

Film Tells Story of Exiled Musicians in Mali
In every culture, music is a special way to tell a story.  It says something unique and important about a culture, and is an essential way to connect people.  Music’s importance is seen most visibly in Malian culture, where music is not a profession or a pastime, but a people.  Griots are musicians who tell stories about Malian history, and hold the keys to the past.  In Mali, therefore, music is culture.

In 2012, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa banned all music in Northern Mali.  This movement took over Northern Mali after a violent take over instigated by Islamic extremism.  This music ban forced Malian musicians to either flee the nation or move underground.  As a result, an incredible counter-cultural movement is sweeping over Malian music.

“They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Musicians in Exile” is a documentary currently being commissioned by British director Johanna Schwartz and producer Kat Amara Korba.  The documentary will explore how Malian musicians are seeking to restore music and peace to the ailing nation.  Musicians featured in the documentary will include Khaira Arby (the “Nightingale of the North”,) Manny Ansar (a music festival director), and Toumani Diabate (a 72nd generation Griot.)

The project began shooting in February 2013, near the beginnings of the conflict, and will continue to shoot through April.  The documentary is being independently funded through a Kickstarter Campaign.  The fundraiser officially achieved its goal of 30,000 British pounds on December 7, 2013, but is still accepting pledges to meet production costs.

As stated by Malian musician Fadimata Disco Walet Oumar, “They want to ban music?  They will have to kill us first.”  Mali’s musical rebellion is a testament to the power of expression.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Kickstarter, They Will Have to Kill Us First

“The Space Between,” a documentary co-directed by Travis North and Kimberly Nunez-North, traces the lives of four perilously ill individuals in Kenya, shedding light on broader issues of poverty and healthcare along the way.

In “The Space Between,” the audience is introduced to four Kenyans currently being treated at the Living Room Hospice, an organization founded by nurse and HIV volunteer, Juli McGowan Boit. Working to improve medical conditions across the country, the hospice treats those living in extreme poverty, who do not have the means to afford adequate healthcare.

The first, Maggie, is a young mother with cancer. As she deals with her deteriorating health, she worries about her four children. With Maggie’s husband working 12 hours a day and earning around $7 a week, the children have no caretaker other than Maggie.

The second individual, Jacob, is a teacher who was paralyzed by a gunshot wound inflicted during a robbery. While receiving treatment in a Kenyan hospital, he developed four bedsores. The wounds are so deep that they are unable to heal, a condition that causes pain, fever and potentially fatal infections.

The third interviewee is Barnabas, an older gentleman who is in the final stages of throat cancer. He is living his last days in an impoverished hospital that lacks morphine or any other painkillers. His greatest hope is to return home, where he can die in comfort, surrounded by family and friends.

The last Kenyan is James, a young man who has contracted HIV, but is afraid to seek treatment because of the subsequent social stigmatization. He has been largely incapacitated by the illness, and thus, is under the care of a hospice.

Describing the process of filming, Nunez-North said: “During our 16 day shoot in Kenya, we received unprecedented access to HIV clinics and hospitals.  We engaged in-depth conversations with physicians whose primary focus is on relieving and preventing patients’ suffering, an area of healthcare referred to as Palliative care.” As “The Space Between” unfolds, the intimate nature of the crew’s interactions with patients and doctors reveals itself clearly and magnificently.

“The Space Between” narrates an important struggle between life and death, illness and health, in a healthcare system that lack supplies, funding and trained personnel. However, telling a story can be the first step toward transformation and reform. By documenting the lives of these four individuals, “The Space Between” creates a space for change.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: Indiegogo, Ezra Winton

Miseducation: A Short Film for the Why Poverty? Initiative Miseducation is a short film produced in 2012 that follows 11 years old Kelina as she walks through Cape Town, South Africa on her way to school. The film offers a glimpse into the frightening reality that Kelina, and children just like her, face every day in her graffiti-covered home town, where gangs are omnipresent and the threat of violence is always near. The 4-minute documentary by Nadine Cloete opens with Kelina saying that she is scared to walk alone. She knows the dangers all too well; rape, kidnapping, gang violence, gun violence.  She is acutely aware of the risks because witnessing such atrocities in one of the poorest parts of South Africa is practically unavoidable. In an article for the New York Times, Cloete cites poverty as a major contributing factor to the violence and gang activity that plague South Africa. Her fear is that children from disadvantaged areas will perpetuate the violence they are exposed to the outside of school because they are not able to recognize that these conditions are not a normal part of childhood. Miseducation is one of 30 short films commissioned by the Why Poverty? initiative in November 2012.  These short films, along with 8 thought-proving documentaries, were created to inspire conversation and action toward relieving global poverty. All of the documentaries are free to view online and in spring 2013, the films will be available on DVD. Why Poverty? is not a fundraising organization, nor are they campaigning for a specific course of action. Their mission is simply to inspire conversation and to make people really think about poverty on both broad and intimate levels; how does poverty affect an entire nation? How does poverty affect one child? Their hope is that intelligent thought and discussion about the issues can not only raise awareness but also uncover the answer to a question that has been asked for far too long; why poverty? See Why Poverty? videos here.

 – Dana Johnson

Source: Why Poverty, New York Times, The Borgen Project


For Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci, students at Claremont McKenna College studying economics and international development, the daily struggle that over a billion people living on one dollar per day face is more personal than it is for the average westerner. After a visit to Guatemala with a microfinance group, Temple began to lay the foundation for what some might call a radical experiment. Along with two filmmakers, Temple and Ingrasci set out to shine a light on global poverty in a bold way: by living it themselves.

For 56 days in the rural village of Pena Blanca, each of the four young men vowed to live on just one dollar per day. Because many people who live in such poverty must take work as it is given, the quartet paid itself random dollar amounts (often $0) each day to make the experience more realistic. The film even takes a pragmatic turn as the students investigate the powerful impact of microloans on the lives of people in the region. They do all of this while battling chronic hunger and parasitic infections.

Although the documentary, which was available on Hulu for a limited time, began as a small project with only four crew members, it eventually drew the attention of big names such as Jeff Klein, the former general manager for the L.A. Times, David Doss, the former executive producer of Anderson Cooper 360, and Mike Lange, who was the former CEO of Miremax.

Currently, the filmmakers are travelling to promote the film. Those interested in watching the film can find a screening in their area or even host one themselves via the organization’s website.

– Samantha Mauney

Source: Huffington Post
Photo: My Northwest