Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Ocampo's decision to keep things gritty without being exploitative is a good one."

Isabel de Ocampo's Evelyn is the latest film to explore human trafficking through fiction. Audiences familiar with stories of Chinese, African or Mexican migrants - think Ghosts, Welcome, Northless and many others - will probably be unsurprised to learn that there is also a stream of unsuspecting youngsters flowing from Peru to Spain. What is more interesting here, however, is that the girls involved are not particularly desperate to leave their home country, but are duped into doing so with promises of high-paid employment. This is Janus-faced trafficking, where everything seems normal - from the contract to the plane journey - until the women reach the other side.

Teenager Evelyn (Cindy Díaz) certainly wouldn't mind staying at home. Her family aren't particularly wealthy but they get by and, initially, it is her mum who is more won over by the glamorous woman from an agency who already 'helped' her cousin Margarita move to Spain. Under pressure from her family and reassured by phone calls from Margarita (Ari Saavedra), Evelyn decides to take a chance - and quickly descends into a nightmare. On arrival in Spain, she finds not the bright new future she had hoped but the confusing world of a brothel, with Margarita, beaten down by months in the place and so fearful for her family back home that she coerced Evelyn into joining her rather than tell the truth.

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The prospects for Evelyn are bleak, with rape and drugs high on the agenda as brothel owner Ricardo (Alfonso Fernandez) tries to break her spirit, to extract the money he says she owes him. Although Ricardo's villainhood borders on pantomime and a roommate subplot is thin by comparison to the main story, Ocampo's decision to keep things gritty without being exploitative is a good one.

She explores what it means to be stripped of your identity, from your name on down, until it is hard to find the person that you once were. Díaz is luminous as the ingenue abroad and her slide towards numbness in the Kafka-esque world of the brothel is heartbreaking. Ocampo also makes good use of sound design, so that flashbacks are made worse by their silence and she bravely refuses to compromise even when things become desperate for her heroine. Evelyn is a hard watch, not in terms of graphic sex, but in terms of its emotional impact - and that is reason enough to see it.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2012
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A young girl who heads to Spain in hope of work, finds herself trapped in a brothel.

Director: Isabel de Ocampo

Writer: Isabel de Ocampo, Juan Manuel Romero

Starring: Cindy Díaz, Adolfo Fernández, Ari Saavedra, Sari Bibang, Guadalupe Lancho

Year: 2012

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Spain


EIFF 2012

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