Sunday, October 7, 2007


The Jammed

Date of release: October 2007

Date of Review: Friday, 5 October 2007

Venue: State Cinema-Hobart

In a global film industry where more than half the movies made each year go straight to DVD and then to the bargain bin, the breakout success of Dee McLachlan’s thriller with a heart, The Jammed, is itself a little miracle.The Jammed starts up fast and never lets you go. Essentially it’s not a whodunit but more a howdunit that goes to the dark heart of international sex slavery. It also takes a hard look at Australian bureaucratic attitudes to immigrants – legal and not – and the swelling underground traffic in people and blood that makes a joke of Australia’s fantasy image of itself as the Home of the Fair Go.Edgily shot in a neon lit Melbourne, The Jammed takes no prisoners. However smug – or depressed – you may feel about immigration tactics, detention centres sex slaves and the state of the universe, this stinging movie busts open any sense of I’m All Right, Jack. In fact it’s that last mantra – the real meaning of “mateship” perhaps? – that really gets interrogated here. We follow a young woman, Ashley (an electric Veronica Sywak) who’s bailed up by a bewildered and desperate Chinese woman (Amanda Ma) with the demand that someone – and for some reason she’s chosen Ashley – do something to find her missing daughter! It’s a tangled web that draws Ashley in and leads the movie into the heart of sexual darkness. The fast moving story follows a cruel pilgrim’s progress of three innocent girls: Saskia Burmeister, as the feisty Eastern European survivor, Vanya, Emma Lung is both tough and fragile as Crystal and Sun Park is the tragic Rubi. We rapidly come to care for these girls even as we sense that nothing can save them – least of all the stony faced apparatchiks of immigration and the Federal Police.There’s a wonderfully unlikely villain in Vic Glassman – a rich Toorak businessman greasily, queasily played by Andrew S. Gilbert (normally cast a sadsack) and some lovely stuff in the snooty art gallery of his wife, (Alison Whyte) who after all wouldn’t be the first to subsidise Art with the blood of the innocent. Stephen Frears with Dirty Pretty Things (2004) opened the book on sex trafficking in Europe, but Dee McLachlan has made a film that is its equal, with a zero budget but a story and a whizz-bang style peppered with moments of genuine terror that make The Jammed a truly international as well as a hauntingly human piece of cinema. In another world it would sweep up all the Aussie awards: but that’s what you get for going it alone round here!Dee McLachlan:“I wanted The Jammed to be immediate, fluid, voyeuristic and gritty – powerful, and heavy with contrast and contradiction. I wanted to reveal the dark side of Melbourne that most of us are either unaware of, or would rather not think about, and to ensure the story, the characters, the script and the style were not overworked and certainly not sanitised.In the character Ashley Hudson – I see some of myself – someone essentially wanting to live life undisturbed, un-hassled – just trying to make a living, find a relationship and get through each day. She agrees to pick up Gabby’s friend and that leads her into meeting Sunee. It is Sunee who forces her to make a choice: to help or to walk away. She reluctantly helps – and then she is drawn in wanting to save the girls.And when you save someone – it is not always convenient and clean – as not everyone wants to be saved or to be rescued (they’d prefer to rescue themselves), and this leads to tragic consequences in the film.” (from the Press Kit: Titan View in association with The Picture Tank, 2007)
- Jonathan Dawson

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