Blowin' Up ★★★★½

AFI Fest 2018: Movie #14

“This is not a safe space.”

So far from the point here, but I need everyone to know how exceptionally well shot this is. Documentaries about important topics are too often uncinematic and therefore less accessible to wider audiences. It takes so much more energy to focus on something without a strong visual to follow. Blowin’ Up’s gorgeous 16mm cinematography captivated me throughout, which commanded my attention to its subject.

This was such a fascinating look at how sex work and trafficking cases are prosecuted. It was so informative, but more so, we really got a sense of the lives of these people and how being arrested changes them. When you’re poor, undocumented, or both, you’re in such a vulnerable position in more ways than one. The ones who do no harm get punished while the exploiters remain untouched, and while that is beyond immoral, it’s nice to see some people who are committed to making the situation better. The women showcased here are doing everything they can to help, and it evokes a feeling of hope without creating complacency.

The events of the ending are a hard blow, but once again, it’s admirable to see how fast these woman readjust and more forward. Broken systems can’t be entirely fixed from the inside, but at least a few lives can be saved.