In rural India, 6 years in the life on young Guddi Chauhan are examined, as she struggles against the centuries-old tradition of prostitution she's expected to honor
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Regions: South Asia
Topics: Women / Gender / Sexuality, ;;Human Rights
What happens when an independent-minded young girl is born into a centuries-old tradition of prostitution?
Highway Courtesans chronicles the story of young women living in the Bachara community in rural India - the last hold-out of a custom that started with ancient palace courtesans and survives today with the sanctioned prostitution of every Bachara family’s oldest daughter. Guddi, Shana and their neighbor Sungita serve a daily stream of roadside truckers to support their families. Their work as prostitutes forms the core of the local economy, but their contemporary ideas about freedom of choice, gender and self-determination slowly intrude on the Bachara way of life.
Beautifully filmed and remarkably candid, this provocative coming-of-age film follows Guddi Chauhan from age 16 to 23 as she struggles to realize her dreams in a community caught between traditional and contemporary values.
This provocative coming-of-age film chronicles the story of a bold young woman born into the Bachara community in Central India – the last hold-out of a tradition that started with India’s ancient palace courtesans and now survives with the sanctioned prostitution of every Bachara family’s oldest girl. Guddi, Shana and their neighbor Sungita serve a daily stream of roadside truckers to support their families. Their work as prostitutes forms the core of the local economy, but their contemporary ideas about freedom of choice, gender and self-determination slowly intrude on the Bachara way of life.
HIGHWAY COURTESANS follows Guddi from the ages of 16 through 23 as she turns her world upside down, incurring the wrath of her fathers and brother as she struggles with tradition, family and love in hopes of realizing her dreams. In probing beyond the surface of a world of paradoxes, HIGHWAY COURTESANS resists easy moralizing and reveals the very real costs – financial, social and personal – for breaking with tradition. As a community hangs in the balance between traditional and contemporary values, this gripping documentary raises universal questions about sex, the roles of women, and the right of one culture to judge another.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS, & SCREENINGS
Galway Film Fleadh, Best Feature Documentary
Chicago Int'l FF, President's Jury Award
Singapore International Film Festival
IFP Market Best of Fest, Berlinale Market
Indo-American Art Council Film Festival
Hamptons International Film Festival
South by Southwest Film Festival, US Premiere
IDFA, Int'l Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, World Premiere
International Women's Film Festival
Asian American International Film Festival
Seattle Independent So. Asian Film Festival
Jakarta International Film Festival
"Stranger than Fiction", IFC Center
Nashville Film Festival
Belgrade Film Festival
Adelaide Film Festival
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Cardiff Screen Festival
Tekfestival 2005, Rome
Jackson Hole Film Festival
Jerusalem International Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival
Bermuda International Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
Kino Movie Eye Film Festival
Seattle Documentary Film Festival
Rio De Janiero Film Festival
Hawaii International Film Festival
Zagreb Film Festival
Denver International Film Festival
Women's Film Festival in Seoul
"Timeless in its observations"
The New York Times, Critic's Pick
"Candid interviews with the subjects are impressive."
"Far from the altogether downbeat experience you'd expect."
AM New York
"Compelling and illuminating"
"Courtesans' poignant, provocative...Brabbee's view is respectful. Despite the girls' nearly hopeless situation, she portrays them as hopeful, strong and surprisingly optimistic...."
The Daily Texan
"15 films to watch from IDFA 2004...”
”The prostitutes of Mystelle Brabbée's Highway Courtesans hold the audience enchanted with their strong characters and beautiful souls in the face of unfortunate circumstances...”
"****(four stars)…[a] thoughtful and sure-handed documentary... We follow Guddi for several years and learn about life in "the profession" and the extraordinary challenges she faces in leaving it… Finding ways to be ordinary in their world must take extraordinary courage."
“Intriguing subject and revealing interviews…”
"****(4 stars) Critics' Choice. Recommended"
"ABSORBING, touching and sometimes enraging."
"* * * (3 stars) "
Chicago Sun Times
"…an incisive examination of a prostitution caste in India...."
"... a remarkable piece of ethnographic work.”
Author of Directing the Documentary
“Brabbee's intelligent documentary…represent(s) the latest achievements in Asian and Asian American filmmaking.”
“Highly Recommended...Excellent…Uniquely presents the clash among the strong roots of family tradition, the social problems of prostitution, and the issues surrounding modernization of the Indian society.”