THE SISTERHOOD OF HOOKERS
“Princesas is a truthfully told and profoundly powerful character-driven drama about two putas who find in friendship their survival of hope.
In Madrids sisterhood of whores, Cayetana (nicknamed Caye, pronounced calle, which is the Spanish word for street) is an upper class call girl who hangs out with her peers in a beauty salon fronting a seedy square where Zulema and other immigrant street hookers congregate.
Tensions rage between these two competing groups– neither of which, needless-to-say, have even minimally satisfactory working conditions. In fact, all their lives are pretty shitty.
Out of this fecal soil blooms a beautiful friendship between Caye (Candela Pena), alienated from her middle class family who dont know what she does for a living, and Zulema (NY-based Micaela Nevarez), a Latin American beauty, whose son– the light of her life– is at home in the Dominican Republic, being cared for by her mother, who thinks shes working as a cashier in a supermarket.
Zulema is perpetually beaten by Johns, but cant report their violence to the police because shes doesnt have her immigration papers– in fact, one of the men whos beating her is a police officer who dangles the promise of papers in exchange for free fucks.
Caye discovers Zulema after shes been badly beaten and takes her to the hospital. The women bond, exchanging confidences, sharing details of their personal histories and talking about tricks of their trade. Together, they begin to steal secret moments of normalcy, having fun going shopping and dancing, dining out and discussing their dreams.
Cayes dream is to be truly loved by one man– the ultimate sign of which would be having him pick her up from work. She imagines herself looking out her office window and seeing him waiting for her in the street below. Just that would be enough. But, its not likely to happen because when she meets a prospective mate, her dates with him are always interrupted by calls from her Johns. The expression on her face at these moments is heartbreaking.
Writer/Director Fernando Leon de Aranoas script is beautifully crafted. Caye and Zulema express their basic truths in such simple and pure language that everyone can understand them, yet their words are often transformational. The plot reveals the disgraces of prostitution, but is remarkably non-judgmental and refreshingly free of anything salacious or scandalous. The only sordid behavior in the film is the Johns violence– and even that is presented matter-of-factly, as men doing what men have been conditioned to think of as their right. Youre spared watching their violence– the beatings never occur on camera. You just see the prelude and the harrowing results.
Cinematically, de Aranoas filmmaking is pure poetry and passionate compassion. Princesas is a profoundly humane portrayal of an in-human condition that demands consideration. This film grabs you in the gut in a way that compels you to examine your own beliefs and, hopefully, come to understand that the worlds oldest profession is, for some, something that should be called survival.