La Mala Noche @ SXSW – Global Section

Plenty of people have issues with prostitution; I am not one. Under the right circumstances the oldest profession for women affords certain women access to an income they would not achieve any other way. What no one supports is human trafficking. More often than we would like to believe this is the situation that women in the sex industry find themselves in. This film, a co-production from Ecuador and Mexico and directed by Gabriela Calvache (Labranza Oculta), takes a hard stance against human trafficking. It is a situation which is becoming more prevalent worldwide and again poor women and children are the vulnerable populations.

Life is trying for Dana (Noelle Schonwald – At the End of the Spectra, Love in the Time of Cholera). She is working as a prostitute. This is because she under the control of a mafia boss. After an earthquake she falls prey to him owing money, so she begins to work off the debt as a prostitute. The end goal is that she return to Columbia to be reunited with her daughter. A young daughter who is sick. This along with the fact that Dana herself is addicted to drugs results in not much money going anywhere it should.

The light at the end of her dark tunnel might be in her relationship with a client, Julian (Cristian Mercado – Che: Part Two, Blackthorn). They start off as strictly financial/sexual and evolve into something more personal. This despite the fact that Julian is married and Dana’s life is very complicated. When she decides to make a risky move due an unexpected event with the aim of getting her life back and helping another, Julian stands by her. Justice is about to be sought.

An interesting look at the fact that things are not always as they seem on the surface. Dana looks like a “free” woman, but is anything but. Everything she does is out of her control. It leads to her having a drug habit in order to escape. Her will has been taken forcibly and she is at the end of her rope. It is only when she stumbles across a young girl who is going to forced into the same life as her that Dana takes action. A woman who is living essentially in isolation with her only contact really coming when she is with her clients. Her mother is distant and she is separated from her daughter. A film that encourages the viewer to take a deeper look.

Dramatic film which becomes a thriller over the course of its last third, La Mala Noche deals with women and power. Puts the spotlight on the sexual exploitation of women and children in Latin America, but can be translated to any part of the globe.

A side note is that this film will not the recognition, but was on the #TimesUp path long before mainstream actresses like Regina King challenged Hollywood to make films which are female dominated in front and behind the camera. 80% of the crew on this film was female with most of them being from Ecuador.

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