Stupid Girls

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Film: "P" or "P Bar"

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I'm a member of Women's Action in Media's email listserv. After I posted the below, in less than 24 hours, I received this email and replied:

> Date: Monday, January 23, 2012, 7:36 AM
> Absolutely, and thanks for your
> interest. Please realize: I simply appreciate this film.
> Aside from a very casual FaceBook "friendship" with the film
> maker, I have no investment, nor receive any payment, for
> what I've said here. I simply believe this film is an
> important part of the discussion on child sex trafficiing.
> Also, please include my email address to your associate, so
> she might contact me for any further information she might
> need from me.
> I'm so glad I could be useful in this discussion. I am a
> sworn fan of Asian horror, primarily because of the powerful
> roles for, and discussions of, women and girls in them. I
> wish "Western" film makers would get the clue.
> Subject: RE: [WAM!] Global Feminist Film suggestions?
> Date: Monday, January 23, 2012, 7:26 AM
> May I send this to my friend Mei-Mei Ellerman, a Brandeis
> colleague whose son runs Polaris. She will give it lots of
> attention.
> Resident Scholar, Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis
> University
 Warning: the following is an off the cuff review of a film. It's unedited, first draft. I wrote it for this list. I so believe in this film.

I have what might be called an "accidentally" feminist film for consideration. It is a treatment of child sex trafficing in Thailand.

It almost didn't get made; the Thai film industry withdrew support, as it "embarrasses" the Thai government.

Horror, in Asia, is a vehicle by which serious, social issues are addressed and argued. This film is a perfect example.

The actor originally hired for the lead backed down a few hours before shooting. The young (13) woman who replaced her couldn't get acting jobs in Thailand because she looks too "ethnic" (aka non-Westernized). Mr. Spurrier had originally decided not to hire her because she is so very young, and the subject matter is so heavy.

The young woman's mother worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time, to make sure her daughter would NOT end up in the streets of Bangkok, which is a sex tourism city.

Before filming, the mother became very ill and required serious surgeries. The young woman spent every baht she earned on the film to pay for her mother's hospital care.

Mr. Spurrier wrote, directed, scored, coached, produced and shot most of this film. He has a cameo, as one of the owners of "P Bar," who shows our young hero her "duties."

It utilizes a real, Thai folk legend, of a specific demon. But it is a metaphor for the corrupting influences of The Life on a young woman. She is Khmer, treated like a sub-human. Her language and customs are strange. Her grandmother trains her in traditional healing and magic arts.

In her urgent need to succeed in this industry, she thoughtlessly forgets some of her grandmother's admonitions about how to handle magic responsibly, and is slowly consumed by this terrible demon of Thai tradition.

Frankly, the "demonic" scenes took me out of the film, as Mr. Spurrier had very little budget for makeup, special effects, wardrobe, etc. I forgive this, because the messages of the film are so powerful and poignant. Besides, he needed to sell this to a Thai movie going audience. It was expected to "bomb," but was a phenomenal success in Thailand.

The authenticity was noticed and appreciated by Thai audiences. Mr. Spurrier hired professional sex workers as actors, the script, while rather tame to protect the young women in it, is heart-breaking.

After it closed in Thai theaters, it languished on Mr. Spurrier's shelf, where he thought nobody would see it again. American film distributors wouldn't touch it, because it's about children and the sex industry. The Thai film industry just wished it would go away.

In their relentless search for cheap content, Netflix picked it up. That's where I saw it and immediately "friended" Mr. Spurrier on FaceBook. He had been living in Thailand, filming nature documentaries, before he created "P" or "P Bar." As far as I'm concerned, if he never makes another film in his life, this one will be his masterpiece, flaws and all, simply because of the sober, compassionate, loving, tender portrayal of child sex trafficing.

This is the closing scene's song, with enough clips from the film to give you a sense of the poignancy of the film, and of it's plot synopsis. I have not yet made it through this clip without weeping. I sincerely love this film.