London Metropolitan University Research Institutes
 

NORMAL - real stories from the sex industry

 

Oxford
Date: 21 February 2013
Time: 7pm
Place: Magdalen Auditorium, Magdalen College, Oxford OX1 4AU
(the Auditorium’s entrance is in Longwall Street). 

Bristol
Date: 24 February 2013
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Cube Cinema, 4 Princess Row Bristol BS2 8NQ UK

London
Date: 21 March 2013
Time: 6pm
Place: Room LG01, New Academic Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

 

Normal is a 65 minute creative documentary based on original anthropological research on the relationship between migration, the sex industry and sex trafficking. The film brings the real life stories of male, female and transgender migrants working in the sex industry to the screen. It draws on original research interviews with people working in the sex industry in Albania, Italy and the UK. Their voices often go against the grain of popular expectations that most migrant sex workers are exploited and forced to sell sex against their will. The viewer is continually challenged by the truth of their words, their dreams and the lives that they lead. All the characters are portrayed by actors, guaranteeing the anonymity of the original interviewees and emphasizing the performative nature of selves.
About the Director - Nicola Mai
Nicola Mai is an anthropologist and filmmaker working at London Metropolitan University. His research focuses on the global sex industry as an ambivalent space of control and autonomy within which migrants (and non-migrants) both challenge and reproduce established intersections between social mobility, gender and sexuality. Normal is the third film of Nicola’s Sex Work Trilogy, including Comidas Rapidas – Fast Bites (2010; 5 mins) and Mother Europe (2011; 5 mins). 
NORMAL is a 65 minute creative documentary based on original anthropological research on the relationship between migration, the sex industry and sex trafficking. The film brings the real life stories of male, female and transgender migrants working in the sex industry to the screen. It draws on original research interviews with people working in the sex industry in Albania, Italy and the UK. Their voices often go against the grain of popular expectations that most migrant sex workers are exploited and forced to sell sex against their will. The viewer is continually challenged by the truth of their words, their dreams and the lives that they lead. All the characters are portrayed by actors, guaranteeing the anonymity of the original interviewees and emphasizing the performative nature of selves.
 
About the Director - Nicola Mai
Nicola Mai is an anthropologist and filmmaker working at London Metropolitan University. His research focuses on the global sex industry as an ambivalent space of control and autonomy within which migrants (and non-migrants) both challenge and reproduce established intersections between social mobility, gender and sexuality. Normal is the third film of Nicola’s Sex Work Trilogy, including Comidas Rapidas – Fast Bites (2010; 5 mins) and Mother Europe (2011; 5 mins). 

The Sex Work Trilogy can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/album/2188492
 
Where did the idea to make NORMAL come from?
‘The film is based on the findings of original ethnographic research on migration, the sex industry and trafficking, which I carried out as a professional anthropologist since the late 1990s. This evidence shows that only a minority of migrants working in the sex industry are trafficked. The findings impacted on policymaking in the UK and in other EU countries and were mentioned in the media (BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph). It debunks the exaggerated estimates of the extent of trafficking in the sex industry that are circulated by politicians and NGOs to obtain political consensus and funding. The moralizing and alarmist tones of these debates are dangerous because they legitimate restrictive policies on migration and the sex industry that further marginalize migrant sex workers and make them more vulnerable to abuse and trafficking. This film is an attempt to counter the misinformation campaign waged by most political and social intervention elites and to provide a more nuanced, realistic portrayal of migrants working in the sex industry. The stories and experiences of the protagonists challenge the stereotypical representation of the majority of migrants working in the sex industry as victims of exploitation and trafficking’.
 
What was your approach to the shooting style of NORMAL?
‘The film reproduces the real presence of interviewees as well as the real settings and process of the original interviews. By watching Normal, the viewer will participate in the undertaking of research interviews and will engage with the commonalities and contradictions emerging from the real life stories of the six protagonists. The shooting style (including the use of sound) in Normal varies with each of the six migrants in order to provide a naturalistic reproduction of their presence and of the real interview settings. The original interviews took place wherever and whenever they felt safe or ready to speak candidly about their lives’.
 
Why did you decide to use actors?
‘Normal is an artistic reflection on the inherently fictional nature of any narration of the self, particularly when this happens in relation to experiences that are stigmatized as ‘not normal’. The six migrants explain how they came to see what they did as normal and how their notions of normality adapted to their challenging life experiences. By using actors to reproduce real people and real life histories that challenge prevailing expectations of what is ‘normal’, the film ultimately challenges viewers own perception of what constitutes a credible and acceptable reality in both scientific and filmic terms’.
 
Normal was made with the support of the CASS School of Art Architecture and Design of London Metropolitan University. The film was a cross faculty project produced by MA Film and Animation Course leader Charlotte Worthington and directed by Nick Mai Reader in Migration Studies at the University.

 
For more information about Nicola Mai and his research, see:

 






 

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