Mystelle Brabbee, Highway Courtesans
Mary Jordan, Jack Smith documentary
The network of villages known as the Bacchara have been held together for
centuries by a unique cushion: the first-born daughters of nearly
every family become primary breadwinners - by working as roadside
prostitutes known as the Khilawadi ("the ones that play").
From 1995 to 2001, filmmaker Mystelle Brabbee followed one of the
Khilawadi - the beautiful and effervescent Sungita - from the all-
important initiation ceremony at age 14 and her first client, through
the birth of her daughter and the contemplation of her future at age 21.
After returning to India and being told that Sungita has left the village,
the filmmakers begin to shoot Gudi, another Khilawadi who is even more
forthcoming about the realities of Bacchara life.
Interwoven throughout the film is the filmmaker's own quest to discover
the truth of the Khilawadi experience. It becomes clear that the
villages and Khilawadi themselves are skilled at public relations tactics -
telling outsiders what they want to hear as a way of deflecting the
increasing scorn being leveled at the Bacchara. The filmmaker must
also confront a cultural divide: in India talking about one's personal
feelings is a foreign concept - especially in relation to a profession
considered by many to be taboo. Interviews with the truck driver customers,
hotel owners, local police, government officials, and nearby non-Bacchara
villagers help round out the perspectives in the film.
Sungita and Gudi finally open up during an extended on-camera interview.
Dropping their usually cheery facades, they recall memories of their
initiations and experiences as Khilawadi. When asked if they would want
their own daughters to become Khilawadi, their responses prove more
ambiguous and uncertain. On one hand, their traditional lifestyle offers
a community that respects and supports them; on the other, their lives
are constrained by tightly proscribed roles many see as blatantly exploitive.
The film presents a compelling story - that of a community hanging in the
balance between traditional and contemporary values, raising universal and
provocative questions about sex, the roles of woman, and the right of one
culture to judge another.
Over ninety hours of footage has been shot for "Highway Courtesans" during
extended shoots in 1995, 1998, and 2001. The pre-production and production
phases of the film were funded by grants from the Soros Documentary Fund
MoxieDocs, and Filmmakers Collaborative. With shooting completed, the producers
are now seeking funds to begin the editing and complete-to-deliverables
phases of the film. With shooting completed, the producers are now seeking
funds to begin the editing and complete-to-delivarables phases of the film.
Mystelle Brabbee has been involved with independent films
for the past eight years. Brabbee has worked as Director of Acquisitions for article27,
a London based firm known for obtaining rights to independent
niche films, and syndicating them to Internet portals and
video-on-demand providers. She assisted in acquiring more
than 230 films, documentaries and children's programs that
fell outside of mainstream market. Brabbee has held the position
as Artistic Director for the Nantucket Film Festival since
1996, where she is responsible for programming a line-up of
40 independent feature, documentary, and short films each
JACK SMITH DOCUMENTARY
Jack Smith is arguably the most accomplished and influential underground artist
of the last forty years, having inspired and collaborated with greats such
as Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Cindy Sherman, John Waters, David Lynch,
Laurie Anderson, Ken Jacobs, Robert Wilson, And Charles Ludlam.
Hailed as the "William Blake of film," "the godfather of performance
art," this revolutionary artist has influenced generations of artists in
arenas as diverse as independent film, glam-rock, multi-media,
performance art, theater, and photography.
Award-winning documentarian Mary Jordan is paying homage to the life, art,
and philosophy of Jack Smith in her current feature documentary film project.
Through collaging samples of Jack's work with original interviews of those
he influenced, testimonials of those who knew him personally, and archive
footage of Jack himself, Mary is creating a richly textured compendium that
will reveal his relevance to the modern art world and that will introduce
a larger world to this great artist and his work.
This film paints an intimate portrait of Jack Smith's life, from the early
days of his childhood to his prolific years as an artist in New York
through his untimely death from AIDS. Original interviews of people
who knew Jack Smith personally provide unique insights into his personality,
the impetus behind his flamboyant antics, and his personal motivations,
pleasures, and fears.
Mary Jordan is an award-winning filmmaker who has focused most of her
documentary film work on human rights issues. Covering topics ranging
from tribal warfare to female circumcism to Buddhism and Indian mystics,
her documentaries have been acquired by the BBC, ABC, and PBS among others.
Mary's admiration and respect for Jack Smith extends beyond his art to
all aspects of his aesthetic vision. Of particular interest to her is
the fusing of Jack Smith's socio-political stance with the art, which
he always maintained with the highest integrity. She is now wholly
dedicated to painting a clear picture of this artist and his
work for the world.