Cinema Libre has tabbed Apr. 25 as the DVD release date for writer/director Ilaria Borrelli’s harrowing tale of child slavery, The Girl from the Brothel.
Mia (played by filmmaker Ilaria Borrelli) flies to meet her husband, Xavier (Philippe Caroit), in Cambodia to see about adopting a child (they have heard that it is just a matter of paperwork and some cash … not too difficult by Western standards).
She is a professional, of means, as too is her husband, it is just a matter of selecting the proper child. A nice getaway, with a plan, that will serve as an exotic vacation as well. There will be none of that messy pregnancy stuff, or the pain and complications of childbirth, etc. … and besides, the lucky child will have a nice home and a bright future. It’s a win-win for all!
Mia means well, she, as we shall learn, is actually a pretty descent human being whose senses, morality and life choices will be tested to the point of breaking. This test begins immediately upon her arrival at her very beautiful hotel, where she spots her husband zipping away in a local tuk-tuk. She just misses catching him, but no problem, excited at the opportunity to surprise him … she follows and discovers that his destination is a rather seedy “massage” parlor.
Once inside she witnesses him perform an unspeakable act with a young girl. Her perfect world comes unglued in a heartbeat. Who is this man? Her husband? How could he be so evil?
She comes to learn that the massage parlor is just a euphemism for brothel and that anything, or anyone, has a price. Perhaps without thinking it through — she literally fainted at the sight of her husband’s vile act — she decides to rescue the young girl. The price, five thousand dollars and the child, Srey (Setha Moniroth) is hers. Is that even legal?
Her mission then becomes to reunite this young girl with her family, a task that she will soon learn is fraught with peril. The journey is no sooner underway when Mia discovers that Srey has plans of her own — two of her friends, Daa (Kiri Sovann) and Sanan (Sen Somnag), also child brothel slaves — have been hidden in the back of the rented pickup truck. “Stealing” these young girls is pretty much akin to a death warrant, but there is no turning back.
Ilaria Borrelli’s The Girl from the Brothel is not only an indictment of the child sex-trade “business,” but of the culture that gives rise to such activities. Indeed, Borrelli reported in post-production interviews that even getting the film made in Cambodia was rather difficult as local authorities were none too keen on her film exposé.
The film is beautifully-mounted, with cinematography by David Vlasits (Emmy-nominated for his work on the television series Project Runway) and showcases both the raw beauty of Cambodia and the deadly “commerce” that this beauty seeks to hide.