2013, Movies

Buying Sex (2013, Teresa MacInnes, Kent Nason)

This documentary about prostitution in Canada is a little brief, a little low-budget, and a little too reliant on talking heads, but overall it is extremely nuanced and well worth your time if you are interested in laws and policies about prostitution, or about gender equality.

The film focuses on the Ontario Supreme Court striking down certain prostitution laws as unconstitutional in 2011. So yes, it’s a little out of date in 2018. But the conversations about laws against prostitution, and government policies are as relevant as ever. The film uses New Zealand and Sweden as test cases to support the arguments of the two main parities arguing around the court ruling, those who want the decision upheld to allow sex workers more freedom, and those who want the decision struck down so that greater reform can be accomplished. (I wonder if these two parties wouldn’t find out they had a lot in common had they met in circumstances other than a court room.)

The film is full of talking heads but fortunately the talking heads disagree heartily with each other. The result is an extremely nuanced portrait of the issue of prostitution, with opinions from sex workers, lawyers, professors, politicians, support workers and filmmakers. The diversity of opinion is thought-provoking and lets the viewer understand that the “world’s oldest profession” doesn’t have an easy solution.

On the other hand the film is perhaps too nuanced – a few times interviewees make points that are a little too obscure and need elucidation but the filmmakers provide none, perhaps because they didn’t have good quotes to provide this. I’m thinking specifically of connections between certain statements about gender equality and the specific issue of the film. Narration or more cards might have helped in a few of these cases, and would have made the intention of the interviewees a little less obscure, less tangential.

But this is still a thought-provoking film that is worth your time.

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