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YOUR NAME IS JUSTINE aka Masz na imie Justine (Poland)

  Publicity Stills of "Your Name Is Justine"
(Courtesy from The Picturehouse)

WINNER Best Artiste Contribution - Montreal World Film Festival,
WINNER Best Debut Actor - Polish Film Festival, WINNER Best Actress
Prix Cine Femme - Mons International Festival of Love Films

Genre: Drama
Director: Franco de Pena
Cast: Anna Cieslak, Arno Frisch, Malgorzata Buczkowska, Jale Arikan, Elizabeth Bruck
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: The Picturehouse
Rating: M18
Official Website: http://www.justynafilm.com/

Opening Day: 1 November 2007


Mariola dreams about a better life. She wants to leave the small provincial town where she lives. Her boyfriend Artur invites her for a short vacation to Germany to introduce her to his parents. On their way they spend the night at Artur's friends in Berlin. When his pals show up, they hand him the money. It turns out that Mariola has just been sold to be a prostitute....

Movie Review:

Lilya 4-ever (released 2005 here) told a story about a girl duped into prostitution. Closer to home, Malaysia's Love Conquers All too tackled with a similar subject. You'll be forgiven if you might think in Your Name is Justine, the familiar storyline got re-spun in a different country, and it's the same old again. However, the issue being tackled still continues to be a scourge in modern society so you'd expect that such tales will continue to be told.

Polish director Franco de Pena weaved a very engaging story in Your Name is Justine, taking a very troubling and nagging problem he sees, and personifying it through lead character Mariola (Anna Ciesiak). Mariola has dreams of leaving Poland with boyfriend Artur (Rafal Mackowiak) for the good life in Germany, but little does she know of the shock and horror that awaits her in a sparsely decorated room somewhere in Berlin. That scene of initial realization dawning upon her, is worth the ticket for the horror and sympathy you will feel for the character, one who has been betrayed by a supposedly loved one.

I thought the movie opened quite aptly, with Mariola and friends seeking job opportunity in an abbatoir, where we see how meat is processed for the end market. It becomes like a metaphor for the journey that Mariola will unwittingly undertake in the flesh trade, very much against her wishes. de Pena doesn't shirk away from showing the disgusting violence committed against women, and skilfully handles the depiction of it without falling prey to gratuitousness or exploiting too much with a more direct approach to showing it all on screen. While the characters don't withdraw from the action of inflicting pain, de Pena instinctively moves the voyeuristic eye away, and at the same time never diminishes the hurt you feel for the character, nor the anger contained within.

And credit definitely goes to Anna Ciesiak, who was superb in her role as a naive girl, both strong and vulnerable at the same time, with obvious limits to the fight inside her, and having her sanity challenged severely through the conditions and threats she had to live with. de Pena demonstrated some of the tactics used by syndicates to snare their potential prey, the use of contacts, and the various psychological (coupled with some physical) games that they play in order to break a person down into thinking their situation is in deep despair and devoid of hope. You feel her hurt of deceiving her grandmother, of shame in being violated, and of her hope to escape her dire situation slowly slipping away, making you want to reach out and rescue her.

This is one movie, like Lilya 4-ever, that will more than likely provoke a response from you. It is extremely focused on its objective in highlighting the predicament of these unfortunate naive victims, and showing how cunning and wicked syndicates are in their involvement in human
trafficking to fuel the vice trade, to satisfy a possibly insatiable demand out there. With the pimp Niko (Arno Frisch), you get a glimpse into the shady operations and arrangements such scum make from beginning to end, involving grooming and the tutoring of techniques to becoming a pleasure factory (sorry, couldn't resist that one).

While Your Name is Justine has a finite end, the plight of many more women in similar shoes continue to go on, and hopefully with more people aware of the situation that these women get put through, then perhaps a dent in the demand side will cause a corresponding dip in supply. But this will probably mean a control on loose libido, as well as not to ignore pleas for help (like in the movie) just to get some rocks off.

Movie Rating:

(Powerful drama that echoes the plight of thousands of exploited women)

Review by Stefan Shih



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