Dir: Isabel  de Ocampo. Spain. 2012. 96mins


A dark, brutal and highly accomplished film, Isabel de Ocampo’s highly watchable and astutely non-exploitative drama about sex trafficking may well be a bleak tale, but thanks to Cindy Diaz’s powerful central performance it is always watchable.

Cindy Diaz is striking as Evelyn, a sweet-natured teen who finds herself in a terrible position.

Evelyn (perhaps not the most dynamic of titles) recently opened in Spain (and showed at the Madrid Screenings) and also made its festival debut at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and its subject matter and strong performances could make it of interest to buyers (particularly in Spanish-speaking territories) and to festivals, especially those with a human rights element.

The story may well be a simple and oft told one – naïve country girl is lured into sexual slavery – but Isabel de Ocampo shrewdly places the emphasis on the claustrophobic brothel that young Evelyn find herself and on her attempts to fight back rather than focussing on the sexual violence that is implicit to the story.

The film opens in rural Peru where Evelyn (Diaz) is being encouraged by her impoverished family to join her cousin Margarita in Spain where she has supposedly got a good job at a restaurant. These early scenes show Evelyn as a sweet young woman who relishes her life, is secretly learning to type and enjoys her family.

Pressured into taking the offer of a company who helped Margarita – providing airfare and costs which are set against the family home – she finally agrees to go to Spain, but is picked up at the airport by two women who drive her through the night to the roadside brothel that is to be her new home.

Drugged and raped, she is encouraged to accept her lot by Margarita (Ari Rubiano Saavedra), who has got used to the situation and brothel owner Ricardo (Alfonso Fernandez), who says she must stay there to work off the money he has advanced for her flight, accommodation, food etc. Initially she screams, fights back and attempts to escape, but gradually finds herself ground down by the claustrophobic environment of the brothel and as threats are made against her family her strength to resist is gradually worn down.

Cindy Diaz is striking as Evelyn, a sweet-natured teen who finds herself in a terrible position. Her disgust at where she finds herself if profound, but she also wants to help Margarita and her roommate Elisabeth (Sari Bibang), a young Nigerian woman who is haunted by the child she lost en route to Spain (and whose subplot is weakest element of the film). Her transition from smiling young girl to a haunted and terrified woman eventually brainwashed into accepting her dreadful lot is impressively handled.

Ocampo’s film is nicely structured and works as an impressively dark piece of drama that also refuses to take any easy choices in its sad conclusion.

Production companies: La Voz Que Yo Amo, Colomo Producciones, TVE

International sales: Imagina Sales, filmsales@imagina.tv

Executive producers: Chema de la Pena, Beatriz de la Gandara

Screenplay: Isabel de Campo, Juan Manuel Romero

Cinematography: Jose David Montero

Editor: Mapa Pastor

Production designer: Arantxa Echevarria

Music: Antonio Escobar

Main cast: Cindy Diaz, Adolfo Fernandez, Ari Rubiano Saavedra, Sari Dibang, Guadalupe Lancho