Whores’ Glory is a recent documentary by Austrian film-maker Michael Glawogger, which focuses on female sex workers from three different countries. Despite the instant preconceptions you get from its title, this film is more than just a story about paying for sex. It also explores social contexts, a variety of cultural attitudes towards sex and relationships and the influence of prostitution on people.
The film invites us on a journey to brothels in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico. The camera follows the unnamed women’s everyday routine: from praying to preparing for the workday, to being in the process of attracting the clients. Even though the essence of prostitution is practically the same everywhere, the way brothels sell their workers and how women treat their trade drastically differs from country to country.
In Bangkok, in a place called ‘Fish tank’ women are placed behind thick glass. Potential clients choose the women they like, while those in the tank can hardly see anything apart from their own reflections. Then we are moved to the ‘City of Joy’, a labyrinth in Bangladesh where mothers are madams for their own daughters. The final act of the story takes place in Mexico, in La Zona of Reynosa, a drug -infused brothel quarter close to the border with Texas.
In each of these locations, women who are often mystified or even hated open up about their work, clients and hopes. They face self-commodification very differently. Some see it as a natural part of their lives and a way of realising personal ambitions; some are bound to do this because there is no way out for them, while others just enjoy the ride and forget themselves by smoking crack. Whores’ Glory may seem sad, disturbing or immoral, but it is nevertheless an astonishing portrayal of a capitalistic system that can exploit not only materials but human beings too.
Prostitution has been around for centuries and now there is a film that captures how this ancient trade works without judging, glamorising or banishing it. Glawogger chose to focus on certain brothels in developing countries rather than talking about sex trade in general. By doing this, he created an accurate portrait and gave voice to the ones that are often silent.