Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Blowin' Up - 2019 SAAFF Documentary Review

The Documentary: Blowin' Up

The Director: Stephanie Wang-Breal

The Story: Working within a broken criminal justice system, a team of rebel heroines work to change the the way women arrested for prostitution are prosecuted.

The Review:
Stephanie Wang-Breal's documentary takes a deep dive into the day to day functions of a court room set up to divert young women who have been arrested for prostitution away from jail time and closer to a better, more productive life. A lot of the women are immigrants and a fair amount of those are not in the country on a valid visa so their situations can be even more complicated than others.

udge Toko Serita, who hails from Japan but holds court in New York City has gone to great lengths to provide resources and options for the women who come before her and every effort is made to keep them out of jail and becoming a statistic of the system. She encourages them to enter diversion programs and partners with organizations who facilitate these types of services. She works with law enforcement to understand the work they do and to help them understand what she needs from them. She works with other courts to help them create similar programs within their jurisdictions.

All of this is impressive work, but as the documentary unfolds it becomes clear that the sheer volume of arrests is too much of a burden to make any real progress and then there's also the current administration who has enabled ICE to push the boundaries of their authority to where they can walk into a court room like Judge Serita's and apprehend anyone they see fit.

While that piece of the story is understandably scary for everyone involved, the sad part of it all is seeing how trapped the women are in a lifestyle that offers no alternative and no chance for a better way of life. Once they enter into the world of prostitution and human trafficking, it is nearly impossible to get out. In some cases because they are held under extreme circumstances by pimps and traffickers or, in other cases, they have grown accustomed to the level of income that nothing else within their reach can even come close to.

Sure, this documentary will make you sad, it will make you upset, it will get under your skin, and hopefully it will provoke you to take action. The inspiration comes from the women we see who have dedicated their lives to helping create better lives wherever they can no matter what the cost and no matter what systems are in place to hold them back. The sheer will, determination, and love on display in this movie is enough to make you want to get up and do your part, which is kind of the ppint, right?

Blowin' Up is an official selection of the 2019 Seattle Asian American Film Festival.

TwoOhSix.com coverage of the 2019 Asian American Film Festival.

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