The Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival finished of with a bang last weekend, for now at least, the plan is to hit the road again to rural areas this summer. The film Price of Sex was screened on the festival in the beginning of May, a documentary about young Eastern European women that have been drawn in to sex trafficking and abuse. Photojournalist and filmmaker Mimi Chakarova, who grew up in Bulgaria, tells the story through a personal investigative journey, going partly undercover in the filming process.
After the screening, there was a panel discussion, led by the journalist Jóhannes Kr. Kristjánsson, about these issues. One of the participants in the panel, Steinunn Gyðu- og Guðjónsdóttir, the project manager in Kristínarhús which is a shelter for women victims out of prostitution and/or human trafficking, sat down with us for a quick interview.
How did this come about, that the Shorts&Docs contacted you for the panel?
Because the Shorts&Docs festival was focusing on female filmmakers and women s issues this year they sought after partnerships with NGOs that work in this field. So they contacted us at Stigamot to co-host this screening and panel which of course we were happy to do, to put focus on these issues that often do not get too much attention. I was also asked to point out candidates for the panel, and I think it was very interesting to have a representative from the police and the ministry of interior.
How do you feel that the film medium is suitable for subjects like this?
This medium is very suitable, for many reasons. The audience get to see the women tell their stories about them being victims of sex trafficking and prostitutions. You never fully understand this reality of these women, unless you get to hear them talk about this in person. But the downside is maybe that this is a visual medium, and women have to be brave to step in front of the camera to tell their story. There are many women that choose to speak in other non visual mediums, or to be blurred out completely if they agree on being filmed.
What can you tell me about this film, The price of sex?
The filmmaker obviously had worked very hard on the film itself. She describes the distress of these women very well, that they come from poor countries, which makes them easy victims for those who are behind human trafficking. The movie is about this distress both when the women are in these situations and the aftermath, because when they are free, this is not at all over, and the recovery process is very complex and difficult.
I think it’s very brave for this filmmaker to manage to get interviews with people involved in soliciting prostitution and pimps. I think that is a very good standpoint to take, because this is not a problem that exists in some kind of a vacuum, there are actual persons behind this demand side of the matter that keep maintaining these human rights violations.
What is your opinion about the filmmaker, did you feel her presence in the film?
Yes, absolutely, she is from Bulgaria and her voice as an author shines very strongly throughout the film. She is of course not just a filmmaker, she is an activist and a photojournalist so she approaches the subject in various ways. She has a webpage for the film: priceofsex.org
Finally, what do you want people to notice the most, if they are going to see this film?
Well, I think the main message is that prostitution is sprung from distress, I think we could stop discussing the myth about the happy prostitute and free will, It is not choice and never will be.
We thank Steinunn for takting the time to talk with us, and wish her the best in her profession at Kristínarhús.
Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photographs: Nanna Dís