Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Australian cinema’s surprise success story of 2007 is The Jammed (now playing in cinemas), a hard-hitting expose on illegal prostitution in Melbourne. Starring Veronica Sywak, who campaigned relentlessly to get it released, The Jammed was given the cold shoulder by the local film industry until it eventually found a national audience. Sywak talks to Luke Buckmaster about her incredible experiences on and off the set.
In the late 90's Melbourne entrepreneur Gary Glazner ran two pubs well known for strip shows and scantily clad women. His reputation however belonged to a more insidious mantle: Glazner was also known as one of the biggest traffickers of women in the city. Glazner brought at least twenty Thai women into Australia; they lived in premises provided by him and were forced to work as prostitutes at various spots in CBD. He kept their passports, controlled their movements and earned around $1 million from their labour. But when police finally caught up with Glazner he wasn't charged with anything as serious as trafficking or false imprisonment, instead, Melbourne's number one sex slave operator went to trail charged with five counts of being an unlicensed service provider and two counts of living partly off the earnings of prostitution. In December 2001 Glazner was issued an eighteen month fully suspended sentence and a fine of $33,000.
Fast forward five years and Veronica Sywak is door knocking in the CBD. She is coasting between brothels, quizzing prostitutes about their thoughts and experiences in the sex industry - how do they get through their days? What do they think about when they're with their clients? What do they know about human trafficking and the sex slave trade? Sywak is researching for her new role in a controversial, culture-exposing film called The Jammed. At one stage the screenplay was so intense she literally threw it down in disgust; it is a hard-hitting expose on the grimy culture of illegal prostitution.
"The simple reason why human traffic has proliferated in this country," says Sywak, "is basic commerce - supply and demand. A million dollars a week is made from the work of these women. Someone is cashing out. Someone is putting their AMEX down. Someone is pulling hundred dollar bills from their wallet."
A few years after Gary Glazner's trial, filmmaker Dee McLachlan studied the court transcripts and began writing The Jammed. Sywak plays Ashley, a career woman who reluctantly assists Chinese visitor Sunee (Amanda Ma) in the search for her missing daughter. Rubi (Sun Park) is trapped in exactly the kinds of circumstance Glazner took advantage of. Like her colleagues Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and Crystal (Emma Lung) Rubi is caught in an inextricable rut of prostitution and illegal citizenship. If she goes to the police, she gets deported. If she stays in Australia, she waves the right to her body. Sywak believes the sex slave industry is not just proliferating in Australia, but also operating right in front of our eyes.
"It's so easy to spot these places," she says. "If you look in sex directories at the back of local papers, you can tell illegal brothels where there are trafficked girls. They say 'new girls every week, all Asian,' blah blah blah. It's just so obvious."
"The Jammed is a G rated version of what is happening. There was a brothel in Port Melbourne with underage boys and girls from South East Asia. Really scary stuff, and it's happening in our most affluent suburbs."

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