Not the Lucky Country
It is estimated that around a thousand girls are imported into Australia every year to find themselves trapped in sexual servitude and working in often appalling conditions. The demand for young Asian girls is ever increasing. When they are of no further use they are often "dobbed in" to Immigration and deported. Recently sex trafficking in Europe has been a hot subject for TV, as world wide up to four million people are trafficked annually into sexual slavery. Apparently Australia is the tenth main destination for victims. On this basis Dee McLachlan has scripted her new movie which was screened at the Sydney Film Festival.
Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak) with a dreary job as an insurance clerk does a favour in picking up a friend from Tullamarine airport, also giving a lift to a Sunee (Amanda Ma) a mother from China desperately looking for her daughter Rubi (Sun Park) whom it transpires has been tricked, kidnapped, violated and forced to become a sex slave at a Melbourne brothel. Rubi makes friends with other victims Crystal (Emma Lung) and Vanya (Saskia Burmeister). Ashley bored with her routine life takes pity on Sunee and rather reluctantly decides to help her find her daughter. In so doing becomes herself frighteningly entangled in the local underworld of sex slavery and gangland violence.
But determined Ashley discovers the illegal brothel which is owned by Vic Glassman (Andrew S. Gilbert) a Toorak entrepreneur, whose wife runs an art gallery and enjoys the patronage of the social set. A cover for what is a very shocking business indeed. Ashley tries to rescue the three girls from the brothel but with dire consequences. Crystal the young Indonesian girl is finally to be deported, despite her allegations of sexual slavery in untenable conditions which seems to make little impact on the DIMIA officer.
Dee McLachlan's script is well researched based on court transcripts, so it does carry some weight although at times the dialogue verges on clunky. However the actors do very well, especially the girls in the often vicious and explicit scenes. Worthy of mention are Veronica Sywak (Romulus My Father) an attractive but fiery protagonist, Emma Lung (Peaches, Stranded) convincing as the abused Crystal, a strong performance from Saskia Burmeister (Hating Alison Ashley), and Andrew S. Gilbert (Look Both Ways) does a neat turn as the ironic gangster. Things do become a trifle heavy when the people at the Dept of Immigration down to the receptionist all seem to be trained by the Gestapo.
Dee McLachlan (previously known as Duncan) is a South African film director with credits for Born Wild, and The Second Jungle Book. In directing this movie, McLachlan runs a tight ship although the first reel is somewhat confusing, but after a muddling start the film gets its grip on you and doesn't let go. The photography is available light for the many night scenes and has the gritty look of a television documentary which seems to work in the film's favour. Guitar and strings with atonal voices for a music track doesn't. The music simply fails to help the tension on the screen.
As it happened, I had just seen The Home Song Stories before the preview for this movie. Curiously they have much in common. Dark themes, immigration of Asians in the 60's or illegally now, largely filmed in Melbourne, and disturbing endings. Possibly comparison might be made with Tony Ayres' polished production although one must consider the budget restraints of The Jammed with just a 19 day shoot. It's a worthy effort with a confronting and concerning story that deserves to be widely seen.