Frame to Frame
The Worth of a Human Being
“One kilo of cocaine, one AK47 or one Moldovan girl – it’s all the same”
That is one of many haunting statistics that you’ll hear in Mimi Chakarova’s documentary about the illegal trafficking of Eastern European women, The Price of Sex. The world is full of many evils, in many corners of the globe, that it becomes almost overwhelming when you think about it. Unfortunately, many of these evils don’t reach any kind of visible surface long enough to be paid proper attention to.
For seven years, Chakarova has been working toward changing just that with the human trafficking of impoverished women from countries like Moldavia, Romania and Bulgaria. These women are promised money and success outside their own country, only to be sold into prostitution with virtually no way out.
Chakarova’s photojournalist background shines through this documentary with many powerful still images intersecting ongoing narration (by Chakarova herself) and interviews she conducts with the victims of this heinous trade. She concentrates on three women to tell her story.
The main character, Vika, is a girl brought to Dubai on the pretense that she will be a waitress. Instead, she is sold three times within the course of six months, forced to have sex on a daily basis, with customers ranging from 12 year old boys to 83 year old men.
Another woman, Zenja, tells the story of how she tried to escape one time by jumping from a window. She became paralyzed, hospitalized and was dragged back to the brothels to continue with her business. These stories are only one small part of the whole picture, of Chakarova’s attempt at exposing this issue to the world.
What’s impressive is the determination by the filmmakers to cover all the facets of this operation. The film is structured in a way that jumps from city to city, tracking women’s stories, from Turkey and the “mecca” of trafficked girls in the district of Aksaray, to Greece, Bulgaria and Dubai. Chakarova manages to include a bit of personal information as well, born in Bulgaria herself, she bookmarks the documentary by talking about her own village, how vibrant it was before the collapse of communism compared to how hollow and empty it is now.
She poses questions to organizations developed for the protection of these women and law enforcement, none providing any optimistic viewpoints.
The blame is hard to pinpoint, as Chakarova explains: the relatives of these girls think little of what happens to their young ones that go off “for a better life;” the police are friendly with pimps, looking the other way or asking for a discount; the government uses funding allotted to tackle the problem to uphold the “the civil servant status quo.”
It’s such a vicious theme that carries so much importance, any criticism one might have with the production of the documentary itself seem trivial. Chakarova’s voice-over narration is monotoned to the point of aggravation at certain points; interesting moments like undercover operations in Aksaraj and the idea that life after communism destroyed gender equality are not paid nearly enough attention as much I would of liked. But the qualms one might have with this film should be silenced to an afterthought by the importance of its subject matter.
Chakarova doesn’t specify what exactly can be done about this problem and the lives it destroys. As deep-rooted and complex as the issue clearly is, perhaps there is not much that can be done. Exposing it, one would hope, as ambitious advocates like Chakarova do, is a good a starting point as any.