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Meeting the ‘golden girls' of prostitution

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Meeting the ‘golden girls' of prostitution
Photo: Royal Pony Film
18:55 CET+01:00
Audiences at this year's Berlin International Film Festival have embraced a documentary by a budding German filmmaker tackling a titillating topic – working prostitutes old enough to be grandmothers.

The tender film “Frauenzimmer,” which has the English title “Silver Girls,” focuses on three Berlin women in their autumn years working in what turns out to a surprisingly ordinary profession from which they gain happiness and fulfilment.

On Monday night, 28-year-old director Saara Aila Waasner was on hand to witness the enthusiastic applause that followed her first feature-length film's debut only a week after receiving her diploma from film school.

“Respect! It was wonderful. You didn't betray them,” one of several cross-dressers in the audience stood to say.

“We've been totally overwhelmed that the public has reacted so positively to this film,” Waasner told The Local on Tuesday. “It was a good experience for the two protagonists who were able to be there to witness this - a validation for them and the reward for our work.”

The film begins with 59-year-old Christel, a quirky woman who works from her home and tells the camera that there is a “considerable demand for older women.” After a lifelong struggle with manic depression and medication that killed her sex drive, Christel made a radical therapy change, discovered her physicality and became a prostitute ten years ago.

“Now I enjoy sex like a 20-year-old, when before it was always just a service I provided my husband,” she says.

The second subject, 49-year-old Paula, heads a bordello in Berlin's Reinickendorf district. She tells the camera that she has sold sex for almost 30 years since she was a young woman growing up in what was then communist East Germany.

“When you've worked once as a prostitute then you'll be a prostitute your whole life,” Paula tells the camera. “I don't know anyone who has managed to quit completely.”

Finally there is 64-year-old dominatrix Karolina, shown answering her phone with the words, “Hello, slave,” as she arranges a client meeting. Sixteen years ago she gave up her 25-year marriage and job to take up whips and chains in a Berlin S&M studio.

While all of the women discuss their human vulnerabilities and some incredible struggles in their past, they view their unconventional career choices in a positive light and feel no need for apologies.

“I'd never seen any television or film work that shows women working of their own free will that have a family life,” Waasner told The Local. “It interested me to see what impact it had, how their families deal with it, and the real people behind the job.”

She admitted the sex industry was responsible for terrible crimes against women forced into prostitution around the world. “But it's not the theme of this film,” she said.

Waasner's approach has an intimate but respectful feel, showing the women, their working spaces, and their imperfect and ageing bodies, without judgment.

“I think it is important to show a body that is not so wrinkle-free anymore, and these women are beautiful despite that,” she told The Local. “And their beauty really comes from the fact that they are happy with themselves.”

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