The Jammed

The Jammed

(2008)

Crystal is a young Indonesian girl, in Australia illegally as a sex-slave. In an immigration office, about to be deported, she complains about multiple rape and appalling conditions of captivity. But the federal agent with her couldn’t care less – after all, she’ll be one of 67 prostitutes deported in the last few months.... More

Meanwhile, a young Melbourne woman, Ashley Hudson, agrees to help a Chinese woman search for her missing daughter. She soon finds herself in an eye-opening world she never knew existed.

Directed by Dee McLachlan, once known as Duncan McLachan, the male director of The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo.Hide

Flicks Review

The Jammed is the Aussie film du jour, a bleak, gritty look into the lives of internationally trafficked sex slaves in Melbourne. After a long list of rejections from funding agencies, the completed film has been praised by critics across the ditch and is expected to be a big contender at the AFI’s, Australia’s home grown equivalent of the Oscars. Two people who won’t be cheering it on if it gets a nomination are the couple who walked out of the screening I attended during a particularly nasty scene. Maybe they were expecting something like “Pretty Woman Down Under,” but they missed out on the rest of a very good social-realist movie.

Ashley is a bored insurance clerk who by chance meets a middle-aged Chinese woman searching for her daughter. What begins as a few small favours for the woman escalates as it is uncovered her daughter is working in an illegal brothel. Meanwhile, illegal Thai immigrant Crystal, who worked alongside the girl Ashley is looking for, is at immigration recounting her own experiences about the sex slave trade. Through these two perspectives, writer/director Dee McLachlan creates a thoughtful and emotional critique of the plight these women find themselves in.

There are no hookers with hearts of gold, no feisty vixens getting by on their looks and charms, only prisoners trapped in an abhorrent lifestyle that destroys any chance for a return to normality. The honest portrayal makes the characters deeply sympathetic and Ashley’s crusade to save them incredibly virtuous. When she meets indifference from others towards her cause or the cold poker faces of immigration officials, you can only resent these individuals who perpetuate the atrocities with their passive avoidance of the problem. These feelings are complicated as the story unfolds and it turns out that these women are now past being helped, and all Ashley’s actions have been in vein. Emotionally and thematically, The Jammed works.

Though, it is not entirely successful. The acting is solid, without featuring a real show stealing performance. Also, there is a tendency for McLachlan to emphasise emotional high points with slow motion effects. These take you out of the story momentarily and labour obvious points. When the visuals stick to the desaturated colours, handheld shots and noir-ish treatment of the Melbourne setting, the tragedy is stronger as it invokes both the realism of documentary and the tension of a thriller.

These are minor quibbles, as The Jammed is the best-intentioned film to be released this year and it seems like it would hold up well on repeat viewings. Probably be the most underrated release of 2008 so far.


The Peoples' Reviews

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I agree with Jim Schembri (Melbourne Age) this film is something different and puts the Australian film industry back strongly on the world scene.


The Press Reviews

  • Initially turned down by government-funding bodies and rejected by every film distributor in the country, McLachlan's movie isn't easy to watch, but demands attention and deserves to be seen. Full Review

  • This edgy expose on foreign sex slaves in Melbourne lock and loads a hot topic largely shirked by the media, using several powerful performances and a tightly honed script to pump it full of knife-edge, gut-based, flesh-for-sale, street curb realism. Full Review

  • Interspersed with sometimes shocking scenes of degradation and the twisted Stockholm-like symbiosis of captives and captors, the film is both an effective lone-wolf thriller and a uniformly impressive female performance piece. Full Review

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