girls1The Girls of Phnom Penh.  Written and directed by Matthew Watson (2009) The sex trade is a challenging subject, and it gets even murkier when it involves Cambodia and the infamous capital city Phnom Penh, where the Western dollar buys and supports the virtual imprisonment of local women. Director Matthew Watson tackles this subject with a commanding bravo as he focuses on the stories of three young girls dragged into prostitution. Srey Leak, Me Nea and Cheata are little more than children. They share the same preoccupations, insecurities and vanities of teenagers the world over, yet nightly make the greatest sacrifices to help their families. Watson elicits their history, burdened with the weight of their poverty, the corruption of their innocence, and the human heartache of life itself sunk deep into their eyes, and tenderly captured by the camera. He then anchors this in a stylishly edited documentary that emotionally packs a whallop. Cameraman Khem Sophal and Watson give the documentary an astounding cinematic sweep that invites the viewer deeper into the sordid stories of the girls, all set against the bustling backdrop of Phnom Penh itself, images flashing by like Midnight Cowboy. The soundtrack is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. It is that cool. The dialogue and on-screen presence of many of the girls interviewed is raw and rings true. We see one girl sending money back to her mother in a village, to pay for medication to help her fight breast cancer:  “Take care of yourself,” her mother says to her daughter on the phone, after accepting money from her. “There are a lot of bad people.” The girls have hierarchies within their order, and jealousies, and the frank and candid confessions that Watson capture are the heart of this film. All his subjects are shot well with expert cinematography, and they open themselves to the camera in the most intimate way with a type of crying desperation. Each has their own burden amongst the poverty and system – the girls are always taking out small loans for the cost of living, or to help their loved ones, and then they get caught in a web of debt they can never get out from. “We work very hard for not very much money,” says another girl. “No girl wants to be a prostitute. But poverty forces me to be a sex worker. And I have to sleep with clients to earn a living.” Watson juxtaposes this statement against footage of the girls being tested for HIV and having their blood tested, needles piercing their skin as the camera lingers intimately on the moment. This is a story about redemption, humour and sisterhood in the face of dreadful adversity.This film, does, however, carve itself a happy ending from a subject that runs deep with human misery, and it does so in such a lyrical and elegant way that it shines light even on these dark places. A must-see. ***** Stars Rak Razam


[products ids=”491″]


Looks like you have entered a product ID (no id) that doesn't exist in the product database. Please check your product ID value again!

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.