Film Review For The CBC Documentary "Bangkok Girl" (2005)

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BANGKOK GIRL
The film "Bangkok Girl", was featured on the CBC Canadian Television program "The Lens" in November of 2005. The film is the story of a Thai prostitute by the name of "Pla". The film is a distorted view of the Thailand sex trade through the eyes of a tourist. The film maker "Jordan Clark" travelled to Thailand with the intention of making a documentary that "puts a human face on the devastating social issue that, sadly, is the fate of too many impoverished girls". That is a quote from the CBC website. While I believe that Jordan is a talented film maker, I have a problem with his distorted portrayal of Thailand, and his misrepresentation of information that he tries to pass off as facts. By his own admission, Jordan knows very little about Thailand, and has spent very little time here. As someone who has lived in Thailand for my entire adult life, I find the film comes across as propaganda, and a very naïve interpretation of information. Jordan seems to have tried to focus on the negative impact of the sex trade on Thai women, and that is a story that can be told in the right way, however one should not fabricate the information or twist it in order to sell more copies, or to tell the story they want told.

After watching Jordan's film, I have been inspired to write a series of articles that offer the other side of the story, the story that Jordan did not tell. Some might say it is the real story, or the true story. I will not interview prostitutes that I have never met, and know nothing about, and then tell their story as they offer it, taking everything they say as fact. I will tell the story of women I have known for more than ten years, I will tell the story of facts that I have witnessed. I will not paint the picture the way I want people to view it, Instead I will share my experiences and offer factual information, letting people draw their own conclusions. The story will be titled "Phuket Girl".



THE FILM MAKER - Jordan Clark of High Banks Entertainment LTD., of Victoria B.C.,Canada. Jordan may be a talented film maker full of passion and determination, however I will suggest that he is not qualified to fly into town and report on the topic of Thailand's sex trade as if he has some insight. Before one can begin to understand, dare to criticize, or share their opinion on a subject, they should first gain some experience of their own.

When you have spent a few years living in Thailand, when you begin to know the people and understand the language, your opinion will be different. People who have no experience in Thailand have no business trying to educate others about what it is like, regardless of whether the topic is the language, the culture or the sex trade. Jordan is no more qualified to speak about the sex trade in Thailand than he would be to speak of what it feels like to walk on the moon!

THE SOURCE - The main source of information for this film is the interviews with a sex trade worker by the name of "Pla". Now it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that anyone working in the sex trade industry may not give you accurate information when you ask about their life story. Pla's story of her sick mother is a textbook Bangkok bar girl story. There are hundreds of thousands of girls working in bars all across Thailand that will tell the exact same story, and in 99 out of 100 cases it is simply an effective way to extort money from naïve foreigners. It could be possible that Jordan happened to come across one of the 1 out of 100 cases where this is based on any truth, but it is highly unlikely.

The tragic story of the death of "Pla" at the end of the film is also very questionable. I am aware that by saying this I may offend a few people but I will not apologize. The reality is that it would be very naïve not to question this. The fact is that it is far too convenient for the film maker that the one girl he chooses to focus so much time interviewing happens to die just one week later, therefore increasing the value of his work significantly. He makes it sound as if he tried to call the girl and spoke to one of her friends (another prostitute), and her friend says that she has died. This is also a very common tactic with Bangkok bar girls. This is normally a textbook case of a high paying former customer returning to town, the girl will drop everything to be with the big spender full time. She may tell her friends to tell people she had to return home to take care of a sick relative, or in some cases she may even have them claim she died. I am sorry if this is offensive, and I apologize to all if it comes to light that in fact this girl truly lost her life so tragically. The fact is that I find it far more likely that she is alive and well and still working in the sex trade.

THE FACTS - Some of the aspects of the film, that I thought were well done were the accounts of the greed and corruption involved with the sex trade. The fact that the police are heavily involved in taking bribes and profiting from the sex trade. One thing that Jordan failed to mention was that many, if not most, of the brothels and bars are actually owned by high ranking police officials. There was an interview with an American expat that was quite insightful, telling the story from an expats point of view. The problem was that the interview was cut out of the film.

In fact all of the expats shown in the film were an example of the absolute worst individuals living in Thailand. A collection of the biggest drunks, perverts and uneducated scum of society that are not accepted in their own culture so they run off to Thailand. These people do exist in Thailand and perhaps in greater numbers than they do in the rest of the world. However there are also plenty of educated, well mannered professionals living in Thailand that are nothing like the people shown in Jordan's film.

One of the most common themes of any story involving the sex trade in Thailand, is that the women are forced into prostitution due to a lack of opportunity. Jordan continues to make reference to this in his film as well. The fact is that there is an abundance of jobs available for unskilled labor in Thailand. Many activist groups will discount these jobs as low paying, and not a real alternative. The truth is that millions of Thai people live happily earning a low salary and working as unskilled workers.

There is such a demand for unskilled labor in Thailand that hundreds of thousands of immigrants are smuggled into the country to fill these positions. Most employers would prefer to employ Thai workers, however many Thai people will not work in the area of construction, or other low paying, labor intense jobs. Burmese people consider themselves very lucky to have these jobs, and most Burmese women choose to work as unskilled laborers rather than sex trade workers. Unfortunately not all women may have this choice, most Thai women do!

UPDATE (OCT 18,2010) - After watching the film I immediately suspected that the apparent death of Pla, was nothing more than a typical story told by Thai bar girls when they no longer want to speak with someone. After some investigation, I have seen several stories from people who say they were working in the same bar district where Pla worked. I have seen stories written by friends of Pla and people who know her well. While I have yet to see concrete proof, I feel that there is more information to suggest that Pla is in fact alive and well, than there is to suggest that she is dead! Jordan Clark, CBC television and everyone involved in the making of the film "Bangkok Girl", will have a lot of explaining to do!

Here is a statement from one of Pla's friends: "Khun Pla is alive and well, living a very successful married life outside of Thailand, with the ability to come and go as she pleases. The content of Jordan Clark's trash may turn out to be very damaging to her and her loved ones." I will continue to update this page and provide further proof when it becomes available.

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Comments 31 comments

4hourmike profile image

4hourmike 6 years ago from Thailand

This is an excellent review. Thanks for recommending it to me. I agree completely. The Thai sex trade gets the most criticism from people that have never been here.

Welcome on board HubPages. It's nice to read the work a fellow Thailand traveler. I'll be checking out your other Hubs right away.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 6 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Thanks Mike,

And I love the idea of a 4hr work week..


slm 6 years ago

is pla actul sex worker..? or not.?


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 6 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

SLM,

From what I understand, she was a bar girl in Bangkok. Now the movie tells her story, as she would tell it to a customer. The problem with that is, bar girls only lie to their customers, so then the story is not factual at all! Then in a pathetic attempt to add value to the film, the film maker claims that the star of his film dies! There is no information to support this claim, and there is a lot of people who claim to know that she is alive and well.


Jordan Clark 6 years ago

Well, I called her friend and she told me on the phone that Pla was dead! What more do you want! It is proof enough for me, so I made a movie about it. I guess you could say I was just lucky that the main character of my movie died, that way more people want to watch my movie.

The last thing I want to do is find out she is alive, that would really suck! I did not bother to ask any questions because I would rather think she is dead!


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 6 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Jordan Clark .. lol ..

Sure .. thanks for stopping by!


Speakthai 6 years ago

Hi Jordan, as a very close friend of Pla and her husband I can assure you that Pla is alive. I don`t know how she will react finding out that she playes a major role in your film documentation.

Besides of that I agree with most what TravelinAsia said. Westernstyle finger-pointing is a very bad manner in Thailand and besides of this it is only - if ever - one side of the medal.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 6 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

SpeakThai,

Thank you for your comments and I appreciate the input.


Escort Review 5 years ago

The article is not logic at all since you say bars need to pay bribes to Police, while in the same sentence you say, the places are owned by Police officials. Fact is, people have a choice to work in this business and as long as they are smart they can avoid bribes.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Escort Review,

It is pretty simple, many places are owned by police and the ones that are not will be paying bribes. Why is that so difficult to understand? Fact is, the article does state that this is a choice, and it is not common that people are forced into this business (however that is not to say that it doesn't happen).


Upi 5 years ago

What a horrible film. I was so disappointed. To me it didn't seem like Pla even knew she was helping him make a documentary. She kept playfully batting her eyelashes at the camera like you would if your boyfriend was filming you. They spend a lot of time in hotels together. I just don't think she would have wasted the energy on him or revealed all of that stuff if she wasn't being paid to act OR if she just thought he was a weird john who liked filming her and enjoyed hearing her fake life story. Half of the story comes from his mouth, not hers, so who knows if she ever really told him she wasn't a sex worker and then took it back.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Upi,

Excellent comments and observations, I totally agree with your assessment. I believe if you watch the interaction between the two of them, there is behavior that suggests that they are sleeping together. Also, as you have said, she would never have wasted the time and energy to help him make a film unless she was being paid one way or another. This makes Jordan Clark the worst hypocrite, as he is just another john in denial. I suggest you read the followup article:

http://hubpages.com/hub/cbc-the-lens


Jalene Rose profile image

Jalene Rose 5 years ago from ~the center~

Hi There,

I saw the CBC documentary.My 'gut' instinct of the people interacting,were that Jordan was very naïve.And the girl just along for the ride.Her reactions,simply whatever he projected, really.

There were alot of holes in the story.

I hope they are Both alive.

~JR~


Informant 5 years ago

It is just sick how that freak Jordan Clark profited from this bullshit home movie. I have talked to people in Bangkok that know that girl, and they tell me she still hangs around in the same bar on Soi Cowboy, and Jordan is off making movies about her tragic death. What a joke!


Canucks Fan  5 years ago

I think it is interesting that this was shown on CBC. Did you try to contact them and get a statement about this? I think they need to accept some responsibilty for showing such a reckless film on national television!


Tourist 5 years ago

I'm not sure what the point of this article is. To show that this guy didn't do his research and that the filmmaker's protrayal of the sex trade is inaccurate? The point of the matter is that the prostitution trade has lots of victims and users. Both parties are using each other. The prostitutes lie to the johns and the johns used the prostitutes. They are both victims and users. Any one who tells me the majority of these women are engaged in prostitution because they have other choices are just deluding themselves and trying to justify the fact that they are users and abusers.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Tourist,

I think your name "tourist" is very appropriate. To answer your question, the point of this article is to expose the filmmaker as a fraud. The reason why this is so important to me, is that it is people like this that feed information to people like yourself (tourists). Then people like yourself(tourists), feel that they have enough knowledge to lecture somebody like myself(fluent in Thai language and lived my entire adult life in Thailand).

People like you then proclaim to have enough insight to tell everyone why prostitutes choose their profession. This is a complex issue, neither you or the filmmaker have any idea what actually goes on in Thailand. Don't you realise how arrogant it is to visit a country on vacation and then act as if you know all about their political and social issues? If you think that you have any idea about what options these women might have, or why they have made the choices they have, then you are delusional!


PiNoina 5 years ago

I have been to Thailand lots. I started there very young as an exchange student. I didn't feel he misrepresented anything. Anyone with a brain can tell that he was representing a certain position. I have never seen this position represented in film. By the sounds of it, you are a patron of the bar girl scene and so you are just as invested in making his film seem like crap as he is in making it good. Thailand is a beautiful country. My friends there are sometimes my only source to sanity and beauty in the world. Pla's personality showed that beauty. That any girl in Thailand has to go into prostitution by a force of poverty makes me grieve for this country that gave me a new soul.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

PiNoina,

The movie is not factual, it is sensationalism. My motivation for slamming this film has nothing to do with being a patron of the bar girl scene, as you have suggested. I am always disgusted when I see people portray Thailand as nothing more than a filthy playground for sexual deviants. This brand of sensationalism is racist, unfair and not entirely accurate. I can assure you that the people of Thailand do not appreciate seeing their country portrayed in this way!


Jimbo 5 years ago

I ran across this film last night and won't lie about being gullible about Pla dying, actually made me cry. Now i feel both relieved and a bit foolish that the whole thing was a crock and that she's alive. and God, I wanted to throw a brick thru that one guys rotten teeth, the brit, arg!


indinan 5 years ago

well i guess after seeing the documentary,the story is real.i meant the ending part the tragic deadth of pla but if the film marker deceived the viewer by making story more good, that wud be

great murderrer and shame to the cbc...


Falang 5 years ago

Hi folks.

I just watched this film and my bullstuff-o-meter was off the scale the whole time. I understand that it might be a laugh to take some 'holiday' footage and cut in some stills, add a maudlin voice-over and take a cheap shot at Brits abroad but I'd have been horrified if I had paid any money to see this film.

I appreciate your reasoned arguments but I've only just finished watching it and am still in shock. Do you think the director/narrator actually believes any of it?

I'm lucky enough to have visited Thailand regularly and expect one day to marry a Thai girl - who I don't think has every even been in a bar, lol - and as a result I have seen enough to be confident in saying that TravelinAsia is spot on. I think it's a good example of what people will swallow when they're in love and I hope that even those without experience of Thai culture will recognise that JC portrayed himself as a gullible creep and that that will be enough to make them doubt the substance of this film.

Rant over, sorry guys.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Falang,

You asked the question "Do you think the director/narrator actually believes any of it?". Good question, I also wondered if Jordan actually believed in this outrageous brand of sensationalism and stereotyping of Thailand. I had expected Jordan was a slimy, creepy hypocrite, that was sleeping with Thai girls, and then pointing the finger at "the other" sex tourists.

Jordan Clark is actually from Victoria B.C., Canada, this happens to be my home town as well. Earlier this year I had the chance to meet Jordan, and I was surprised that he came across as a reasonable person. After meeting Jordan, I can assure you that in fact he does believe all of stereotypes that he endorses in his film.

His view of Thailand seems to be based on his Christian beliefs, and he believes that "Christianity historically is what created the western standard of morality, was the major contributor to western art, literature and music, development of politics and has often been the backbone in protecting human dignity. Western life is essentially an evolution of Christian life."

That is a quote from a conversation we had a few weeks ago. I am of the opinion that Christians should keep their religion to themselves, and shouldn't expect to apply their views to Asian society.

In short, I totally disagree with Jordan Clark and his point of view, however I don't think he is a gullible creep. I do think he believes in his cause because of his religious views.


Falang 5 years ago

Hi again. and thanks for taking the time to reply. It's cool that you have met him to ask the questions and I suppose you have to agree to differ sometimes. Live and let live etc. I didn't get any feeling from the film that he considered his western morality was any better than the Thai culture he represented in that he never compared the two. He wanted to show that the girls were in an impossible position but I didn't get the impression that religion was being blamed. Maybe it would be implicit to his target audience? Who knows, I just thought it was an odd defence of the film.

Following your slight tangent a little I think JC would in that case be a good example of Dawkins' argument that being brought up with religion makes you more 'impressionable' and more able to suspend the disbelief I felt whilst watching.

I don't know of any way that I could help with your proposed response 'Phuket Girl' (iirc) but I'd certainly be interested in seeing it.

Cheers.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Falang,

I have been in frequent contact with Jordan since I met him earlier this year. We often debate the issues of Thailand's sex trade, and it is in those conversations that I have concluded his views are a product of his religious background.

As far as my response to the film, I have published 2 articles about sex trade workers, and there are links at the bottom of this review. I had never intended to respond with a film, however I wouldn't be apposed to participating in such a project.

My response has been widely misunderstood, I am not trying to suggest that prostitution is good, or should be legalized. I am not trying to say that there are no victims, no sad stories. I am simply trying to tell the true stories that the media doesn't tell.

The women in my stories I have known for more than a decade, so I can assure you that the entire story is factual. One of the things I noticed about Jordan's film is that Pla tells us her story, yet nobody can say for sure if it is true?

Thank you for commenting


Blake 5 years ago

Downloading the film now and I'll try to get back here to comment on it later.


philhal2 5 years ago

Personal perception is that this girl was badly used by the documentary maker and I dont see how he can sleep at night . The whiole story is bullshit as he manipulated , used , fed the girl a load of BS and then deserted her . No one who has been in Thailand could accept that he was just so naïve that the story is truth , he used her , deserted her and she suicided .


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 4 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

philal,

Thank you for commenting, I have heard this before, that Jordan used Pla and manipulated her, then she committed suicide. I am not so sure about this theory, I still think it is likely she is still alive.


LadyLola profile image

LadyLola 4 years ago from Canada

I'm glad I read your stories. Now I know the truth about the low morality of these Thai prostitutes. I'm pleased to be warned about the disgusting values of the police and citizens that support them in a most heinous fashion. To learn of a culture that almost seems to celebrate sex for money is truly revolting. To compare this creepy underworld to Hollywood is unfair; there is a difference between appreciating beautiful people in movies and letting people touch you for money...yuck! Thanks for the heads up, now I know what part of the world to avoid forever.


zebraman777 3 years ago

Your right on in so many ways, I have videos on youtube about the Thai red light districts, and over and over people with a closed mind and western only view, with no respect, or understanding of other cultures, and that have never even been to Thailand, seem to feel they know better then us, the expats, and even my Wife, a Thai, it just goes to show why much of the non-western countries view the westerners the way they do, and for good reason, sad really, I think westerners should study Buddhism for one, maybe they can take note. just one very funny thing a commenter on my video said the other day, "Thai culture is bad, and nasty, they are a very 3rd world country" LMAO this made me laugh, Thailand 3rd world, LOL very funny, she went on to point out that see had seen a video on youtube about a ladyboy, and his family lived in a house made of wood, and no A/C LOL, and how bad the countries is for that LOL, I seem to remember not many homes in the 50's had A/C LOL or 70's even, LOL, welcome to what the western system has done to the human mind. LOL Ahhh help us someone!


Sunny 3 years ago

So if pla is alive could we have a message from her to state she is safe well and happy ?

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