The Jammed (Dee McLachlan, 2007, Australia)
Running time 89 minutes
Review by Sharon Hurst
Synopsis: A young Asian woman, Crystal (Emma Lung) is being quizzed by Immigration Officers who learn that she has been imprisoned against her will and held for the purpose of prostitution. We then go back three weeks in time, to meet Melbourne office worker, Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak), who goes to the airport to pick up a passenger. There she is approached by Sunee, (Amanda Ma), a woman who has just flown over from China desperate to find her missing daughter. Ashley’s at first reluctant search leads her into the murky world of human trafficking, where Crystal, along with Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and Rubi (Sun Park) have been lured to Australia on the promise of being dancers, only to find themselves held as sex slaves.
Amidst all the publicity about illegal immigrant smuggling the important issue of sexual trafficking is often ignored. Inspired by actual events and court transcripts, this powerful film reveals a world many of us have little idea exists, at least in Australia. As the story unfolds, the sinister workings of human trafficking and enforced prostitution are exposed, along with the harshly uncompassionate approach taken by the Immigration Department in dealing with its victims.
The Jammed works on multiple levels, both as a thriller and as a powerful piece of social commentary. Director/writer McLachlan deftly interlaces the fictional story line with the real human issues. Full credit must go first to the excellent scripting which rings true at every turn. Add to this the splendid performances by the young women, who manage to elicit such intense empathy for their shocking plights. Emma Lung (Peaches, 48 Shades Of Brown) skilfully captures Crystal’s fear, combined with her increasingly resilient attitude, while Park displays Rubi’s extreme fragility, especially in one scene of searing emotional intensity. Burmeister’s Vanya (Hating Alison Ashley, Thunderstruck) is a powerhouse of sexuality, resentment and strength. Sywak (Romulus My Father) also shows her exceptional talent in a measured and authentic performance. Also be commended is the fine cinematography which manages to capture Melbourne with an immediacy and vibrancy that is at once alluring and impersonal and the empathetic soundtrack, composed by the director’s brother, Grant McLachlan.
The film takes a strongly committed approach to the suffering women, revealing their vulnerability and contrasting it with the detestable brutality of the men who exploit these naïve and hapless girls. From the heavily-tattooed client to those actually running the prostitution ring, men emerge as having very little to commend them, as all the male actors in their respective roles convincingly bring home. Even with the occasional male who attempts to be helpful we are left with the feeling that they cannot understand what it must be like for a woman to be treated in such a sub-human way. Several scenes are very raw in their depiction of physical abuse and drawing us into intense sympathy for the girls’ desperate situation. A compassionate and inspiring film, The Jammed should be seen by everyone with a concern for social justice and the aspiration to make a difference in our too-often complacent society.