CAPSULE: A woman rescues three young girls from a Cambodian brothel. Police and thugs chase her and the girls across country as she tries to find each child's home and return them there. Along the way the film is decorated with equal parts lush photography of Cambodia and examination of the ugly problem of child prostitution destroying the lives of tens of millions of children worldwide. The film is directed by Ilaria Borrelli and written by Borrelli and Guido Freddi. Freddi also produced and contributed the original music. The basic plot is an overly familiar one, but the film makes up for it by acquainting the viewer with the enormous issue of child forced prostitution. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
The alternate title of this film, more subtle though less informative, was TALKING TO THE TREES. And the film begins with an eleven-year-old Cambodian girl, Srey (played by Seta Monyroth) talking to trees. Before we know it men with chainsaws are cutting down the trees. The men have bought the forest that the little girl considers home and they are cutting it down, (unintentionally) killing Srey's grandmother along the way. Another stranger offers to help Srey.
After the titles we flash to the French photographer Mia (director Ilaria Borrelli) who has flown to Cambodia to be with her husband. She just misses him at his hotel and tries to catch up with him in the street, but finds he has gone to a very shabby brothel. Mia sees her husband with Srey and is stunned and outraged. Mia decides to try to rescue the girl her husband was using. She tries to escape the brothel with Srey. And the same establishment that turns a blind eye to the inhumanity of the sex trade considers Mia a kidnapper. The police cooperate with heavies from the brothel to chase after Mia and Srey.
The film's cause--stopping sexual slavery and human trafficking in children--is a very serious one. As far as the chase plot the trafficking is an interchangeable MacGuffin. Mia could be running from drug dealers and we could have substantially the same action film. The film's originality and value are largely what we see in the margins and around the main body of the story.
The film at once makes Cambodia look like a place you would want to visit and at the same time one you would not. In spite of terrific colorful scenery, this is not a film that is going to do much positive for the Cambodia tourism industry.
The film is mostly in English, but with actors' accents thick enough to get in the viewers' way. There are some scenes that are not staged well. In one scene fugitives are being chased are crossing a wide flat field of several acres. The people chasing them catch them in the middle of the flat, open field. It gives the viewer a jolt, but it hardly seems possible to sneak up on someone who is so far out in the open.
Few people are aware of the enormity of the child sex traffic. With over 40,000,000 children on the world sex market there are more slaves today than at any time in world history. 35% of Cambodia's 15,000 prostitutes are children under the age of 16. It is not uncommon for parents in poverty to sell their own children into the brothels in Cambodia. Borrelli could have made a hard- hitting documentary about the problem, but probably fewer people would want to see it than would if the film offered the entertainment of a chase story and uses that to present some of the hard facts. This story is a nightmarish view of the life of the impoverished and powerless in Cambodia. Hopefully this film will be an awakening, even if it is a rude one.
I give THE GIRL FROM THE BROTHEL a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. It will be available on DVD and ON DEMAND beginning April 25.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1930499/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_girl_from_the_brothel
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper