15th October 2018 8.50pm at Vue West End
15th October 2018 9.15pm at Vue West End
17th October 2018 12.30pm at Vue West End
Sex trafficking, issues of undocumented immigration and exploitation are hardly themes which will make for an uplifting film, as Austrian-Iranian director Sudabeh Mortezai’s Joy demonstrates succinctly. Brutally honest depictions of a rarely covered topic make this a particularly tough flick to watch.
The plot is centred around Joy (Anwulika Alphonsus), who left Nigeria to make her fortune in Europe. To pay for all necessities she is forced to become indebted to “Madame” (Angela Ekeleme), a procurer with a range of girls selling their bodies for money. The protagonist is already close to paying off the debts when she is instructed to take care of Precious (Mariam Sanusi), a recent member of the “family” whose readiness to offer herself up is less than enthusiastic.
The picture is, as expected, very heavy-going. It captures the life of a migrant sex worker extremely well, depicting all aspects that such a life entails, including waiting in the cold for hours to find a client, being forced to give most of the money to “Madame” or the family in Nigeria and the constant threat of being discovered by the police and thus facing deportation.
The feature’s production value is kept to a minimum. There are no special effects, there’s no soundtrack; everything is very straight-forward. The shots are equally minimalistic, capturing the actors as they go about their daily business. This has an interesting effect – on the one hand, the entire scenario feels real and close to life; on the other, it makes the movie feel rather slow-paced at times. Furthermore, Mortezai deliberately chose non-professional actors, some of whom are ex-sex workers. Again, this has a dual effect: we know the performances are genuine and entirely close to life, but occasionally they don’t quite manage to deliver the desired emotion. That being said, everyone involved clearly put a lot of effort into the production, and for the most part, they are perfectly believable in their roles.
All this makes Joy a fascinating feature. It’s not entertaining to watch, exactly, at times feeling slow or less than professional. But it’s not trying to be. In the picture’s aim to explore the themes of migrant sex workers, immigration control and exploitation, it is absolutely excellent, making this a genuine slice-of-life exposition of urgent societal issues. For this reason alone, it should be an absolute must-see.
Joy does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Joy here: