(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Former prostitute Kristen DiAngelo produces and conducts interviews with ten other current or former sex workers as well as herself to show the insides of an occupation that the public rarely sees. The film is illustrated with shots of the street, pictures of the participants' youth and some soft-core photographic poses of the ladies being interviewed. The result is a well-rounded view of the upper-end of prostitution, overall as positive on the business as any film since PRETTY WOMAN. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

AMERICAN COURTESANS is a documentary about highly polished and high-priced prostitutes. It answers the questions the viewers might have about this mode of living: How did they get into the profession? What is it like to be a courtesan? In what ways is the occupation rewarding? What are the risks? Toward the end of the film the focus comes to what are the women's alternate plan for when they leave the profession. What will they do then?

For Kristen DiAngelo the answer to the last question was to go into film production. Her first film, AMERICAN COURTESANS, documents the career she had just left. She assembled eleven current or former prostitutes, including herself, to tell of their experience. She interviewed them and had them interview each other to get a global view of the business of sex. While the film is directed by first-timer James Johnson, it is obviously DiAngelo who manages the film. Her purpose seems to be to sink many of the myths about prostitution that everybody knows but are not necessarily true. For example everybody knows pimps are violent selfish psychopaths who abuse their subservient prostitutes. One of the women--with eleven prostitutes interviewed it is hard to remember who said what--had nothing but affection for her former pimp who was as concerned for her welfare as his own.

The lives of the escorts fall very much into a pattern. They have impoverished and unhappy early lives. One says that though her mother got monthly checks, there was more month than money. They find their way into the business where there is money to be made. There also are arrests, rape, and beatings from customers, and there is little or no help from the police. The police reports of crimes against prostitutes at times would be stamped with "NHI." That is short for "No Humans Involved." Still, overall the women discussing their situation are not filled with self-pity. Some entered the profession saying, "Well, this is what you got to do." Some decided they would be earning good money. Most of the women in this film are now living with decent incomes. So generally they are positive on their profession and what it has done for them. They have a sense of self and of empowerment. These days they walk with confidence. However, one should remember when watching the film that these women represent only a tiny fraction of American sex workers. These are the luckiest and the most successful.

The stories the women tell of their pasts are illustrated with their own photographs and perhaps home movies showing parts of their stories. Little is at all salacious.

Overall, the film presents an inside look at high-priced escorts. It argues for understanding and just treatment for prostitutes from the public and especially from the police. The film acknowledges that it would be too simple to say that the profession has been good for the prostitutes or that it has been terrible. Prostitution is a human profession with its good and bad aspects. I rate AMERICAN COURTESANS +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. AMERICAN COURTESANS will be premiering on VOD and on DVD on July 12.

Film Credits:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper