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Michael Glawogger, 2011
Austria/Germany | Format: 35mm | 119 minutes
Its provocative and ambiguous title aside, Whores’ Glory is an unsensational, non-exploitative, matter-of-fact study of the world’s oldest profession. That said, it’s no accident that Michael Glawogger’s triptych forgoes examining the mundane realities of sex work in the West to focus on prostitution in the developing world, traveling from Thailand to Bangladesh to Mexico. Much the same interest in the exotic and the extreme animated Glawogger’s epic 2005 documentary Working Man’s Death, which offered five dramatic portraits of manual labor from different points across the globe. Like that film, Whores’ Glory is fundamentally about work—but it’s also about the workplace and the conditions in which the sex trade takes place, from The Fishtank, a highly regulated, factory-like environment in which the women are displayed behind a glass wall for inspection by their bashful prospective clients, to the City of Joy in the red light district of Faridpur, which is operated by a self-perpetuating matriarchal power structure, to the hellish La Zona, a more or less anarchic dead end of motels and shacks where there’s no semblance of community or order. Although he doesn’t attempt to get at the organized-crime underpinnings of the sex trade—and it’s unlikely he’d have been able to access it in any case—Glawogger doesn’t condemn prostitution or suggest that all prostitutes are exploited victims. He simply observes the daily routines of both buyers and sellers, punctuated with occasional interviews, and allows the harsh realities and professional hazards of the trade to speak for themselves.