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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 6 user ratings

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Highway Courtesans
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by Chris Parry

"A woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. Especially if daddy is her pimp"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: On the side of the highway in India, there’s not a lot of choice in how a family with no property and no money can make a good living. The trucks whiz by from Goa to Paris and Delhi to Moscow, and the local girls, known as the Bachara, follow a tradition that goes back hundreds of years… they spread their legs for rupees.

The usual excuse for this is that it’s tradition, and that it allows the women to make a living that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to make. They’re “going into business” and providing for their family… but the reality isn’t so girl-power-friendly. The men in the family do nothing but drink, and the parents have as many children as they can so that if one of their daughters flees or marries, they’ll have other, younger girls ready to take their place.

We meet Guddi Chauhan, a young woman who has been causing truck drivers to pull over for a decade or more, but who has finally attracted a suitor. Her love for this young guy, who has his own business and is considered a catch, is pretty darn strong, but she has a conundrum in her love life. Her father doesn’t want her lover to see her unless he pays, and won’t let him marry her unless he pays a lot. He, on the other hand, seems only as interested in Guddi as he can be without actually putting any money where his mouth is.

So what will Guddi do? Will she keep working and put food on her family’s table, thus pissing off her boyfriend, or will she leave her family in disgrace and go to him, come what may?

Sadly, there’s a third option in there… disgrace AND no boyfriend, because no matter how smart the woman, no matter how attractive, no matter how possessed she is by love, she’s still (in her boyfriend’s words) a whore. And nobody stands up for a whore, especially in male-dominated rural India, where the man seems to hold all the cards and can more or less pick and choose who he’ll bless with his hand in marriage. In the middle of Guddi’s hard luck story, her 14-year-old sister is brought in to the business, and we can see the same old story gearing up to repeat itself.

If there’s a beef with the film, it’s that it could have been far shorter without losing any importance as a social commentary. And that’s probably not good when the film is only 71 minutes long to begin with.

An interesting look at a group of people we never hear about, who follow a way of life that we ‘socially advanced’ folks would consider most heinous, Highway Courtesans is the latest in a growing number of documentaries that prove, no matter how far down the social ladder you sit, everyone steps on the throat of someone, somewhere, while building a life for themselves. Yeah, even you.

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originally posted: 03/14/05 05:19:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/19/06 Mindi Brown Very thoughtful 5 stars
11/21/05 Angie Well done but sad story 4 stars
10/16/05 trevor hughes somewhat confused, repetative.poor visual values especially at first. 2 stars
3/14/05 Debbie interesting topic, but nothing happened in the story. 2 stars
3/14/05 Todahe Powerful 5 stars
3/14/05 pooper Spent too much time on one girl and not enough on the whole. 2 stars
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