30.08.2014

    Beach Boy and The Great Night: International Prostitution

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By Oana Vasiliu

According to Amnesty International, human trafficking in Kosovo has risen since NATO troops and UN administrators took over the country, generating an 80 percent increase in income for pimps and human traffickers. Having this precise information in mind, I wondered how many Kosovars would attend two consecutive screenings at this year’s Dokufest: Emil Langballe’s short movie Beach Boy and Petr Hatle’s feature-length documentary The Great Night. The answer: not too many, with most of the audience wearing delegate badges.

To begin with, no one is so naïve to think that the life of a prostitute is such as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Women aren’t picked up from the streets by men like Richard Gere who are on their business trips and have difficulties getting along with women. And definitely the women aren’t commissioned for a week of companionship worth USD 3,000 in the penthouse of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Not at all, as Petr Hatle clearly points out in his movie, in which not one scene is shot in daylight: hookers await clients on dark streets, in all weather conditions, trying to make a living and procure money especially for drugs and cheap alcohol, portraying a subculture with its own values and terms of references.

The old boxer Zdeněk is the link between all the turbulent characters who inhabit Prague’s bustling nightlife: drug addicts, drunkards, ageing prostitutes and a teenage disco queen, who dances with herself in the pulsating neon lights. Everything seems like a non-judgemental study of Prague nightlife, which presents glimpses of the lives of the various characters.

Opposite to what Hatle’s documentary pointed out is the short movie Beach Boy, which focuses on another type of prostitution: sex tourism in third world countries. The action unfolds in Kenya, an idyllic quiet place with crystal clear waters and smooth sand, which currently does not benefit from any good advertising: terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas are the messages that most embassies are transmitting.

Langballe’s short movie put an accent on sexual services that black men are offering to white women, usually mid-aged ones, who come to Kenya for two weeks up to one month, and who are looking for male companionship: not necessarily sex, but someone to spend time with, called “romance travelling”. “I will never get bored of fucking white women. It’s like fucking the dollar”, says Jay, the protagonist of Langballe’s movie, who has a pregnant girlfriend in Qatar and spends time with a 50-something single mother from Britain. And it seems that his group of friends is thinking the same way – everyone wants a white woman because they have money and they are paying for sexual services, as well as other little things like ordinary supermarket shopping, dinner, coffee, camel rides or boat trips.

It is said that prostitution is the oldest job in the world and that every country and culture has it, in aggressive forms such as in Kosovo, or in lighter ones such as Amsterdam’s Red Light District. After seeing the two documentaries that frames two completely different parts of the world, I am still wondering if all these characters, who can easily represent everyone in this business, will eventually get help and have a normal life afterwards.