“THE GIRL FROM THE BROTHEL”
Mia (Llaria Borrelli, who is also the director and co-screenwriter) is a French photographer who is suffering from boredom and her life in the middle class of Parisian society and decides to surprise her husband, Xavier (Philippe Caroit), by flying to Cambodia where he is working. She has an ulterior motive and that is to talk him into beginning a family, something she has always wanted. After arriving, she sees her husband in a brothel having sex with Srey (Setha Moniroth), an eleven-year-old girl.
Mia immediately decides that has to rescue Srey and take her back to her village from where she was abducted. She comes to terms with Sanan (Sen Somnag), the owner of the brothel and it is “a repulsive bargain”, in which allows herself to be used as a sex object to a governmental official in exchange for the freedom of Srey. She and Srey then set out for the Srey’s village. What she does not know is that Srey has smuggled out two other young girls (Daa and Malin) and that they stole money from Sanan. Mia realizes that their situation is quite dangerous and that she and the girls will be haunted down. Yet, Mia does not stop and with the additional responsibility, she continues on with the hope of returning the three young girls to their Cambodian villages. As they get closer to freedom, they realize that life should be and can be a celebration.
When Mia saw her husband with the child in the brothel she is shocked that she passes out and when she regains her senses, she walks around the Cambodian slums in a state of shock, both about her husband and about the exploitation of children of both genders. She is determined to get Srey out and back home but does not have enough money to purchase her freedom from Sanan. The only alternative that she has is to submit to prostituting herself and this brings her into using cocaine (once a terrible habit of hers).
Once that is over she and Srey are on their way to the village when she discovers the other two youngsters and instead of stopping, she assumes responsibility for the girls but she is now forced to travel only on back roads. Her husband is concerned that he cannot make contact with her and has no idea that Mia saw him with Srey. He knows she is Cambodia and he certainly knows that she once had a problem with cocaine so he contacts the police to report that she is missing. Sanan is notified by the police as well but he has connections there and informs Munny (Vanyoth Lay), a corrupt policeman, that the other girls were missing and so Munny sets out to find her.
As they travel Daa becomes ill and Mia manages to get her to her mother in her village where she dies of septicemia. At the funeral, Munny finds Mia and arrests her but when he realizes that she is helping the children, he lets her go and she continues on traveling by canoe and going into the jungle up to Malin’s village and becoming excited Malin calls out to her mother who refuses to take her back causing the boat to turn away.
They finally get to Srey’s village but Mia weakens and suffers from cocaine withdrawal and exhaustion and now adult and child must draw on the other’s strength. Reaching the village, they find Sanan waiting for them.
This is a rough film especially for those of us who have never had to face something like this. I was stunned by what I saw her and the sheer intensity of the film made me glad to live in a country where something like this does not happen on a large scale. Yet the cinematography is gorgeous and the acting is fine all around. I do not think that anyone can watch this film and not be affected by it. This is what moviemaking should be all about.