Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

27 April 2008

The Jammed, dir. Dee McLachlan (2007)

NIKKI says:
I had minimal interest in this one until I read a snapshot review in The Age that referred to it as "the best Australian film of 2007". That same day, a reasonably decent (ie. foreign film hirer) customer at the shop told me it was superb film. My interest certainly grew.

I love a good Australian film. I used to be one of those people who turned away from local productions due to the lack of good work out there. For every Noise, there's about 10 You and Your Stupid Mates, and that takes its toll after a while.

Lately, though, there's been a lot of good stuff out there -- or at least stuff that does its best to rise above the standard. The Jammed is one of those movies. It's not excellent, but it is sincere in its efforts to tell its awful story. Technically, it's excellent. On a story level, some tightening and focus might have helped.

My main problem had to do with a lack of understanding on behalf of the exploited women. The film is about a Melbourne woman, Ashley, roped into helping a Chinese mother find her missing daughter, Rubi. Rubi has fallen victim to human trafficking that sees young immigrant women forced to work in brothels to "pay debts" incurred by the securing (actually false) of immigration papers. The trick is, the women believe they owe these traffickers money, and if they try to get help they will be deported or held in detention. So, that's their catch-22 -- which is the better of two evils, as presumably the situation they leave is worse than the one they're now in.

Or is that in fact the case? The film doesn't really go into that. Is Vanya, the Russian immigrant, better off working as a prostitute in Australia? What was her situation back home? There's never an opportunity to understand these women. They never really even comment on what they are forced to go through, why they came out here. Because they don't speak English, we never hear from them, and just shake our heads in shame as they get repeatedly raped and tortured. But what do they feel? Horrible imagery -- Vanya getting urinated upon, for instance -- is one thing, but I wanted to know these women, not just see them abused. Violence and abuse of this magnitude would no doubt go on in regular brothels, exploiting Aussie women, so how is this different?

I think the film failed to give insight into the lives of these women. The film's dealing with them felt very surface to me. As far as Ashley's crusade, perhaps that needed to be the film's focus. The bureaucracy, and politics. Instead, we have two halves of a story that culminate in a poor ending that sees one dead (no police visited that death scene?), one locked up, and the other free to wander the Melbourne streets. Then Ashley rings her mum and is reminded that she doesn't have it so bad.

To what end? The message rings loud and clear -- this happens and there's nothing you can do about it and you should be thankful you don't have it so bad. It almost trivializes the situation rather than offering solutions, or even daring to leave Ashley hopeless, which is essentially what we are in these circumstances.

A good effort that falls short.