Joy, a film about a group of Nigerian prostitutes in Austria

Joy, a film about a group of Nigerian prostitutes in Austria

Image by Joy


Daniel Nelson

Joy is a slice of Nigerian life – in Austria.The title is the main character’s name, not the experience of the women who are trapped working for a money-obsessed “madame”.

The women have paid thousands of pounds to traffickers to get to Austria, and it takes them years to earn enough to repay the money (60,000 euros in Joya's case).

It’s a tough and dangerous life backed by a cruel ruthlessness: a wavering newcomer, Patience, is coerced into acquiescence by being raped by two of madame’s enforcers, a painful scene in which the camera stays mostly on the fixed grimaces of the other prostitutes. Like the other women, Patience is also frozen into her servitude by fear of the retribution that will strike as a result of the ceremonies she undertakes before leaving Nigeria.

Joy is organised and clear-minded about her situation, and determined to pay her way to a more independent existence, for herself and her child. She's steely, but prepared to groom and guide the newcomer in the ways of this slave-like world, and to send back money to her parents. An Austrian “boyfriend” offers to set her up in a flat, and she flirts with an NGO that wants to expose the trafficking, though there's little in it for Joy and a lot of danger for her family.

Austrian-Iranian director Sudabeh Mortezai doesn't rush the story. She leavens the women's plight by showing other aspects of their lives, such as a Pentecostal church service and a party at which they can momentarily shed their shackles and laugh and dance in each other's company. Most strikingly, Mortezai doesn't judge: she is content to describe.

It's a bleak, powerful tale, with a bleak, powerful twist at the end.

+ 'The fate of these people involves us all.' - an interview with Sudabeh Mortezai

* Joy is showing on 16 October at 8.50pm and 9.15pm at the Vue Leicester Square, and on 17 Ocober at 12.30 and 12.45 at the Vue.


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