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The Jammed

Year: 2007
Production Co: Film Victoria
Director: Dee MacLachlan
Producer: Dee MacLachlan
Writer: Dee MacLachlan
Cast: Veronia Sywak, Emma Lung, Saskia Burmeister, Andrew S Gilbert
The little film that could, going from a quiet DVD release to sweeping the AFIs and becoming the most talked about film release of the year on the strength of critical praise.

Was it all worth it? The Jammed is certainly a professional, slick effort. The dour greys of Australia's corporate-style immigration apparatus contrast beautifully with the grimy yellows of an illegal, inner-city Melbourne brothel and writer/director Dee MachLachlan wields a very good filmmaker's eye.

The Jammed is an 'issues' movie, more likely to make you feel guilty about your own coddled existence than let you enjoy the unfolding story. It's a snapshot of Australia's seedy underbelly where young women from the third world are forced into the prostitution slave trade, some of whom don't survive it.

When she's approached by a middle-aged Asian woman who wants help finding her daughter, everygirl Ashley (Veronica Sywak) doesn't know how to say she'd rather not get involved. The woman appears to have no western graces, even copying hundreds of please for help complete with Ashley's phone number to plaster all over the city.

It leads her to the orbit of a sleazy and dangerous prostitution ring in inner city Melbourne which has ensnared her daughter Ruby along with two others, Chinese girl Crystal (Emma Lung) and Russian Vanya (Saskia Burmeister, a world away from her lead role in Hating Alison Ashley).

We're told the story in flashbacks, as Crystal is interrogated by immigration officials with a dark future of mandatory sentencing ahead of her, and learn how Ashley became so caught up in the plight of the three girls she was prepared to risk life and limb to help them.

It's both a document about the brutality of an industry few average Australian see and a fairly effective thriller, and also a very sad story where women are exploited and men either do nothing or perpetrate it, a story where even those we suppose are innocent - like Ruby's mother - are anything but.

The best thing about the film is Emma Lung. After her luminous debt in the uninspiring Peaches a few years back, she's still an arresting presence. Though with Asian ancestry, she looks Anglo Saxon, but her enormous doe eyes, straight hair and convincing Chinese accent are a pleasure to watch.

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