This documentary asks the hardest question, finds no answers.
DIRECTED BY ROSIE DRANSFELD (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
Wednesday, May 2, 9:00 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)
Saturday, May 5, 6:45 p.m.
Cumberland 3 (159 Cumberland Street)
Who Cares? takes us to the back streets, alleys, and bars of Edmonton—places populated by women that most of society either ignores or doesn’t know about: specifically, those working as prostitutes. This vérité documentary focuses on a small group of sex workers, plying a particularly high-risk version of the trade. So high-risk, in fact, that it has necessitated the creation of something called Project Care, a drive to register the DNA of active prostitutes so that their remains may be more easily identified. (Of course, this is far from a perfect solution. As a police officer involved in Project Care says to one of the women: “It in no way makes you safer.”)
The film is sympathetic toward its subjects, but it never feels emotionally manipulative. The stories are evocative (and most of the time, tragic) enough to speak for themselves. By giving a camera to Courtney, formerly only known as “the prostitute from 107th Avenue,” the documentary demonstrates the difficulty of breaking out of the trade, rife as it is with addiction and stigma. (As Courtney says, even after being off the streets for two years: “No one ever sees the person, they just see the prostitute.”) Most importantly, the doc also gives her the opportunity to express her story in her own words and images, an opportunity seldom offered to those in the sex trade.
In the end, the stories in Who Cares? leave the viewer feeling haunted by both the past and the impending future. The question then isn’t merely who cares, but who will listen?