Film Review: ‘Joy’ shines a light on the harsh realities for Nigerian prostitutes in Austria

‘Joy’ is an expose’ into the lives of young women smuggled out of Nigeria for prostitution. It depicts the challenges they go through while trying to acclimatize to their new environment, as well as facing their task master – ‘the madame’ who brought them to Europe.

In this film, Joy, a prostitute with many years of experience on the job, whose goal of paying off her ‘madame’ and securing a better life for her young child is almost complete.  She takes a ‘newbie’ under her wing called Precious, who finds herself at the mercy of their madam because she is unable to meet up with the job requirements.

Although the fear and disdain for the job is still quite evident in Precious but after a make-over and tutoring lessons from Joy, Precious finds herself now adapting to the new terrain and is now able to  meet up with the demands of the job as well as pressures from her family back in Nigeria.

Faced with an opportunity to expose the whole system and save the lives of many which comes at a risk, Joy must make her choice while also considering her young daughter who she has shielded from misery by holding on to the hope of a better life for them both.

Finally, the appointed day of “Freedom” came as Joy is able to pay off her debts to her madame. She now has to decide on the next step of action for herself and daughter.

Becoming a madame herself? Pleading for asylum from the authorities by testifying against her madame? Joy has got her hands full. Will she succeed in getting her life back on track or not

Find out when you stream Joy on Netflix

Verdict

It sure is a vicious cycle out there for these girls because the prostitution world already filled with so much peril is compounded for foreigners working illegally in a western country. They face a lot of challenges such as rape, racism and are constantly exploited by almost everyone including their families back home. 

Even after paying off their debts to their madames they face so much uncertainty and are often dragged right back into the same game and forced to exploit other young girls by becoming madames themselves. They are still at risk of getting deported should their madame decide to report them to the authorities.

Directed by Austrian-Iranian filmmaker, Sudabeh Mortezai, Joy is very graphic and gritty from the start. Shot in a documentary style to a fictitious story, Sudabeh doesn’t hold back with the graphic images. The prostitution world isn’t pretty so the harshness is expected, even though it made the film very hard to watch.  

Contrasted with Oloture (2020), a similar film about the same topic, Joy is so much more grittier. Where Oloture shows more colorful scenes with plenty of character drama,  Joy doesn’t hold back with dark scenes in painting a story of harsh realities. As a contrast, both films contain a witchcraft scene and the one in Joy is way graphic with deep psychological effects, even for the viewer.  

I really liked this film because it is very provocative and hard hitting and as mentioned earlier, it is very hard to watch but I also liked the rawness at times. Most of the actors are actually debutants and they had to do a lot of improv for this film. A major kudos to them because they all did a really good job. 

Mariam Sanusi (Precious) on the left and Joy Anwulika Alphonsus (Joy) on the right

Directed by Austrian-Iranian filmmaker, Sudabeh Mortezai, Joy is very graphic and gritty from the start. Shot in a documentary style to a fictitious story, Sudabeh doesn’t hold back with the graphic images. The prostitution world isn’t pretty so the harshness is expected, even though it made the film very hard to watch.  

Contrasted with Oloture (2020), a similar film about the same topic, Joy is so much more grittier. Where Oloture shows more colorful scenes with plenty of character drama,  Joy doesn’t hold back with dark scenes in painting a story of harsh realities. As a contrast, both films contain a witchcraft scene and the one in Joy is way graphic with deep psychological effects, even for the viewer.  

I really liked this film because it is very provocative and hard hitting and as mentioned earlier, it is very hard to watch but I also liked the rawness at times. Most of the actors are actually debutants and they had to do a lot of improv for this film. A major kudos to them because they all did a really good job. 

Directed by Sudabeh Mortezai

Produced by Oliver Neumann, Sabine Moser

Screenplay by Sudabeh Mortezai

Joy Anwulika Alphonsus Joy
Mariam SanusiPrecious
Angela EkelemeMadame
Gift Igweh 
Sandra John 
Chika Kipo 
Ella Osagie 
Ratings

The storyline, the acting as well as the raw and gritty nature of the film made it enjoyable. The documentary style shooting was not entirely my cup of tea and I felt it skipped around a bit so I deducted some marks for that.  Overall I rate this film 7/10 and I do not recommend it to be watched by children due to the graphic nature.

7/10

Click here to watch on Netflix

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