“Laughing, crying. Both are a part of life. No one can see what is buried deeper. There is so much sorrow and pain. We try to forget sadness with a little laughter, but the pain still remains.” -Young prostitutes in Bangladesh from the documentary Whores’ Glory (2011)
I’m sure I’m not the only Netflix user that is constantly exploring the selection of Documentary film that is now at my disposal. I’ve always been interested in checking out Docs, but lately I have encountered a few that are hauntingly disturbing. These are powerful films that can’t be shaken off after viewing with the insistence that it’s “just a movie.” Here are a few of the films that I won’t forget any time soon:
1. Dear Zachary - Bring a box of tissues to this one. This documentary begins as a collection of friends getting together to make a film for a deceased man’s son so that he will have an idea of what his dad was like. And that’s the happy part. This film centers around both social tragedy, psychological illness, and the bureaucratic failures that allow these things to collide.
2. Dreams of a Life - A woman in her thirties was found dead in her London flat. She had been sitting in front of her TV for three years, and nobody noticed that she was gone. Instead of concentrating on the forensic side of things, this documentary explores this woman’s actual life through interviews with her family and friends, which radically personalizes this story and makes it all the more frightening.
3. The Impostor - A young boy goes missing and is then “discovered” in Spain 3 years later. But it is not him, it is an impostor (which you know almost immediately in the movie, no spoiler there). Is this man taking advantage of a grieving family? How can a family mistake a complete stranger for their child? By the end of this film, you’re not sure who is the bigger liar.
4. Jesus Camp - Organized religion is always a little frightening, but this film shows the indoctrination of small children, which is truly creepy. A young girl goes up to a woman at a bowling alley and says Jesus is trying to talk to her. The juxtaposition of young children and extremist Christianity is something you won’t quickly forget.
5. Whores’ Glory - This film follows the day to day life of three young female prostitutes in Bangladesh, Mexico, and Thailand. The most startling things here are not necessarily the job-related aspects of the film, but rather the moments in between. There is a very odd mix of danger and control in their jobs and also a contrast between their discussions of their hopes and dreams and the numbness they reveal in their routines.
6. Cropsey - Staten Island is home to the ruins of a mental institution called Willowbrook. You might have heard of it from Geraldo Rivera’s expose on the place, which made his fame. After it closed down amid a scandal of abuse, neglect, and overcrowding, local legend claimed the now released patients were still living in the tunnels underneath the place. After small children began to be murdered, the legend of “Cropsey” seemed like it might actually be real. Who should you really be afraid of?
In Bangkok, Thailand, women punch a clock and wait for clients in a brightly lit glass box; in the red-light district of Faridpur, Bangladesh, a madam haggles over the price of a teenage girl; and in the border town of Reynosa, Mexico, crack-addicted women pray to a deity named Lady Death
We women are actually very unhappy creatures. It is very heard to survive as a woman. Why do women have to suffer this much? Isn’t there another path for us? Is there a path at all? Who can truly answer this question?