“Asian Maids: Invisible Modern Slaves” (2017)

Extent

Seen in 2019.

Seen in its Swedish adaptation on Dokument utifrån.

Subject

Mostly Filipina maids working in Hong Kong and under the kafala system in Lebanon, and the tiny aid organizations, lawyers and volunteers fighting to protect them.

Commentary

Artless but rich in content. The filmmakers do a little bit of client impersonation but it is amazing what they get to record without it, in the open. A two-week course for new maids defines “flexible” as doing anything without complaint. A manager and recruiter openly discriminates for age, weight, number of fingers etc., warning applicants that there is no use telling one’s sob story because he already knows that everybody looking for work with him is desperate. Anybody who appears able to defend her legal rights is denied representation and therefore employment. No wonder the maids are beaten, crippled, raped, indebted, tricked out of their tiny salaries etc. When they go under cover, the filmmakers record a salespersion recommending an Ethiopian maid with the explicit argument that they are the most docile, being too poor to resist. The business is evidently entrenched in a manner resembling the chattel slavery of the early 19th century.

moving picture non-fiction