I’m a fan of Kim Longinotto’s documentaries, and this one is probably the strongest that I’ve seen to date. It focuses on the inspirational outreach work of Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute who is one co-founder of the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that offer support to prostitutes in Chicago while also working to prevent the sexual exploitation of at-risk youths in the city. It goes without saying that Myers-Powell’s work is of great value, and Longinotto accompanied her for ten weeks in 2013, following her into prisons and schools and filming as she met women working on the street. Many of those who Brenda meets during this documentary have suffered abuse at the hands of men; usually their pimps, boyfriends or family members (there are few complaints about customers, though I dare say it’s equally applicable). The scale of abuse is as depressing as it is startling, and Myers-Powell has first hand experience of it, having been badly beaten in her younger days both at home and on the street. In fact she regularly gets one of the men in question – her former pimp, now a reformed character and a sufferer of systematic abuse himself – to speak during her classes, and he is one of a few other figures that the director also focuses on during the film; the others include working prostitutes, former prostitutes who are now in prison and even Myers-Powell’s own family members. Throughout Longinotto is an unobtrusive presence, rarely heard and never seen; working with regular collaborator and editor Ollie Huddleston, she has made a successful portrait of a hugely empathetic, selfless and staunchly non-judgmental character, whose value to society is priceless, and you’re left wishing there were more people like Brenda Myers-Powell in the world. Hers is vital work, and this is a vital documentary.
Directed by: Kim Longinotto.
Starring: Brenda Myers-Powell.
Cinematography: Kim Longinotto.
Editing: Ollie Huddleston.
Running Time: 101 minutes.