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Immigrant sex workers in "the middle of nowhere," Germany: "They are like ghosts"

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Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss’ poignant documentary “Lovemobil” observes the Nigerian Rita and the Bulgarian Milena as they perform sex work in caravans (trailers) along a German country road. The young women have escaped difficult economic circumstances in their home countries and are looking to earn money; they feel obligated to send Euros back to their families. Lehrenkrauss examines their “economic captivity,” as they work for Uschi, a tough older woman who keeps them in line and advises them about pricing their services, but also appears to care for them, even as she chides Rita for trying to cheat her out of payments.

Rita tries to make the best of her tough situation, but she is lonely. Milena, too struggles, lying to her best friend — also named Milena — about what she does. The shame, resilience and dignity these women experience is what makes “Lovemobil” so moving.

Lehrenkrauss zeroes on the humanity of these desperate lives, filming Rita trapped in a caravan, looking forlornly out a window, or Milena rationalizing her decisions. “Lovemobil” deliberately keeps the sex acts off camera to focus on the larger issues of globalization, feminism and economic inequality that are part of this fascinating subculture of sex work.

Via Whatsapp, the filmmaker spoke with Salon about her illuminating documentary, which won the 2019 Cinematic Vision Award at the recent Camden International Film Festival.

How did you find the subjects for your film?

I come from a town which is close to these roads. It was a childhood memory that there were these caravans. I left at 18 and when I came back 15 years later, it had changed — women from foreign countries were now doing the sex work. These foreign women were sitting in the middle of nowhere having to do this job. It was important to tell their stories. This is happening on the edge of society. People drive by but no one knows who they are. They are like ghosts.

How did you get these women........

© Salon