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“Prostitutes are like trained actresses”

Interview: Michael Glawogger, director of documentary's Working Man's Death and Megacities isn't new to filming life's secrets as he uncovers a world of bordellos in Whores' Glory.

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In the third instalment of his docu-trilogy about the working underdogs in our globalised economy, Michael Glawogger explicitly depicts the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of a handful of the world’s most indigent prostitutes.

Glawogger’s square eye and surprisingly unobtrusive camera manage to build a rapport in which his subjects feel enough at ease and even enthusiastic to bare all. Set in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico, Whores’ Glory is an edifying foray into a trade to which such full and undeterred access is very rarely achieved.

Did you have any trouble convincing the prostitutes and their clientele to be filmed?

I had a lot of trouble. You’re most unwelcome in a brothel with a camera anywhere in the world. These women have often had bad experiences with hidden cameras or aggressive journalists in the past, so it’s vital to build trust to convince them it’s worthwhile for them to be filmed.

So how did you convince them?

Well, once you convince them that they can say exactly what they want and that their voices really will be heard, you ignite their interest. These women are true to what they do, and by offering them the opportunity to give their own personal insight, you give them the opportunity to inform and influence others.

Did they pose any conditions?

The only thing is that I had to promise them the film would never be broadcast in their home countries; after all, who wants their own mother to see something like this?

And what was it like to film and direct prostitutes?

When you spend long periods of time with people, it becomes a different kind of work. Though I’m the director, I don’t maintain a firm barrier between myself and those I’m filming. The prostitutes in Whores’ Glory are real people – it’s a documentary after all – but they’re also trained actresses purely because of their profession.

Take the only sex scene in the film, for instance; Brenda, a Mexican prostitute, was undeterred by our presence while she serviced a client. It’s not hard for her to fake it, with or without a camera.

In one scene, Thai men in a brothel say their wives at home are still their “number one” and that prostitutes are only good for a few hours of fun. Later, a Mexican prostitute explains that many of her clients get bored with ‘steak and chips’ at home. From your research, do you think this is a trait common to most of the world’s men?

Yes, I think they were being down to earth and pretty honest. I’d say they do represent the vast majority of men.

This was the final instalment of your trilogy focussing on a globalised working world after Megacities and Workingman’s Death. Why such a project?

This trilogy is essentially a decade of observing the world. The first two films are still quite relevant and, in fact, haven’t been shown in many countries until recently despite having been made in 1998 [Megacities] and 2005 [Workingman’s Death]. My hope is that now, with the completion of Whores’ Glory, the trilogy will be shown in full.

Whores’ Glory opens in Berlin on September 29. Check here for show times.