Award-winning director Rosie Dransfeld enters the gritty and dangerous world of Edmonton’s sex trade workers to craft a powerful film about women caught in a heartbreaking cycle of addiction, violence and prostitution. Courtney, known as the “prostitute from 107th Avenue,” struggles to stay clean; Shelly takes care of everyone but herself when she’s not on crystal meth; and Nancy, a sweet young girl, explains her bruises away as accidents. They drop into the Reno Pub to get out of the cold, shoot a game of pool and swap stories with the bartender about their lives and their dreams of getting straight.
Meanwhile, in this post-Pickton era where the unthinkable is a gruesome reality, out on the streets women voluntarily provide DNA samples to an RCMP task force investigating the unsolved murders of women so their next of kin can be notified if the worst should happen.
Here’s what POV Magazine thought about Who Cares:
Rosie Dransfeld’s Who Cares is troubling and memorable precisely because it’s so hard to tell what we’re supposed to do with it. The title is a play on an RCMP initiative in Edmonton called “KARE” designed to minimize the number of “high-risk missing persons,” a group that includes the city’s prostitutes and sex workers; the film splits its gaze between the women targeted by the plan and the officers who interact with them with a studied mix of compassion, familiarity and professional detachment. Scenes where prostitutes are invited into cars to give DNA samples so that in the event of their murder their next of kin can be notified have a tragic, absurd sense of comedy.
Dransfeld’s style is entirely observational, coming close to true cinema verité. We never hear the filmmaker’s voice, but her patience and persistence open up her subjects all the same. Crucially, there’s no sense of exploitation or pity for the people at its centre. In a key scene, Courtney, a former addict who managed to get off the street (and has the scars to show for it) vogues to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” This affirmation of individuality follows an interview where Courtney talks about feeling trapped by her former vocation—“it’s like you’ve got the word written across your forehead.”
It is less a case of a filmmaker trawling for inspirational juxtapositions than simply trying to do justice to the complexity of her characters. (It’s also telling that the scene is shot by Courtney herself, a case of the film literally being given over to its subject.) Who Cares? is harrowing and emotional, but it’s not prescriptive; its brilliant final sequence, which offers the first instance of visual beauty in a gritty film, can be read as either a new beginning or an infinite loop. Who Cares? stands as a successful example of raw, unmediated documentary filmmaking.
Who Cares will screen at the Metro Cinema in Edmonton on November 27, 2012.
About Rosie Dransfeld:
Rosie Dransfield’s character-driven, cinémavérité films are powerful pieces of poetry on the human condition. She started her career in Germany, working intensely on a wide range of TV programming. After moving to Canada she made several films for CBC, including the award winning NFB co-production The Dogwalker. For TVO, she produced and directed Broke, about an inner city pawnshop, which had its world premiere at Hot Docs in 2009, and won the Donald Brittain Gemini Award for Best Social/Political Documentary. In Who Cares she delves into the dark and troubling world of street prostitution, unfolding a few blocks away from her home in Edmonton.
See more at www.idproductions.ca.