Monday, October 21, 2019

"Blowin' Up": a judge and team of attorneys try to minimize prosecution of sex workers in NYC, pre-FOSTA



Blowin’ Up”, directed and written by Stephanie Wang-Breal (94 min, 84 minutes shown), examines the attempt of some attorneys, social workers, and a sympathetic judge in Queens, to avoid prosecuting young women arrested for prosecution.

The documentary goes back to 2004 and shows many scenes with the judge, the honorable Toko Serita.

The attorneys all say they want to go after the pimps, studios, massage parlors, and later Internet operations that they say victimize young immigrant women.

Pimps often threaten to get young women deported if they don’t go along.


The film, completed in 2018 by Once in a Blue productions and aired (very slightly condensed) on PBS POV Oct. 21, doesn’t mention Backpage particularly, but it sounds in retrospect now like an argument for FOSTA-SESTA, which passed in April 2018, and which has arguably put many sex workers at risk but shuttering the sites that they depended on to avoid looking themselves on the streets.  Some of the workers are trans and usually POC. Many of the other women seem to be from China, Philippines or Vietnam.  Remember that FOSTA targets prostitution “alone”.

Late in the film, the judge visits her native Japan.

When she returns she learns of people who have been picked up by ICE and deported.
   
The PBS presentation of this Tribeca film was followed by a brief statement by the director.

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