Yask Desai
Yask is a freelance critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

Insights into the socio-economic realities of contemporary Romania

This well made film about two women in the cybersex industry is neither the familiar story about exploitation of Eastern European women, nor the often seen work of soft pornography masquerading as a documentary.

In post communist Romania cyber sex is a growing economy. PhoeniXXX is an adept 48 minute documentary set in Bucharest, Romania that tells the story of Mona and Georgiana, two friends in their late 20’s who work as «live chat girls». Despite the topic, Dragolea skillfully concentrates predominantly on the daily lives of the film’s two protagonists outside their work.

«The women’s line of work becomes subordinate to a poignant portrayal of their daily routines, family dynamics and future plans.»

Seemingly shot with a one-person crew, PhoeniXXX is deliberately raw in both its texture and its visual aesthetic. This is further enhanced by the overcast skies and modest interiors in which much of the film is shot. This grittiness also suits the subject matter and the protagonists’ honesty and lack of pretension.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtpzWX-wQ3s

A different approach. The film is neither the familiar story about the sexual exploitation of Eastern European women, nor a work of soft pornography masquerading as a documentary as many recent offerings dealing with such subject matters have been. Instead it achieves a much greater depth of characterisation, with regard to both the main characters and their families. As the film progresses the nature of Mona’s and Georgiana’s employment becomes subordinate to a poignant portrayal of their daily routines, family dynamics and future plans. Never the less it is their vocation that causes them and their families the greatest consternation and remains central to the narrative, if not the characterisation.

As a result the film successfully illuminates the lives of those caught in the global momentum towards widespread urbanisation. Both Mona and Georgiana hail from agricultural families, yet they are understandably reluctant and dubious about their ability to survive and prosper by remaining in the rural economies in which their parent’s lives still are grounded.

«We observe and contemplate contemporary Romanian society and the lack of opportunities available for these competent young women.»

Family perspectives. A great strength of the film also comes from its portrayal of support characters, who not only help drive the narrative of the main protagonists but also offer further insights into the socio-economic realities of contemporary Romania. In one mid-film scene Mona’s father laments the fall of socialism proclaiming that it had provided a better standard of living and greater job opportunities than the current «democratic» system. It is an assessment based on desperation and frustration, as well as a conversant expression of parental concern that will be familiar to a wider audience.

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