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REVIEW: Selling Isobel (2016)

In America, everything is for sale…

“Every year, at least 20.6 million adults and children are kidnapped to be bought and sold into the illegal sex trade industry world wide. To put things into perspective, in 2015 Burger King’s annual net sales came in at about $1.1bn. The annual estimated revenue for sex slavery is $”

The above quote is taken from the end of Selling Isobel. It is a startling fact and one that is simply not made up out of thin air. Human slavery is globally regarded as the fastest growing illegal trade in the world and it is happening right on our very own doorsteps. It is not wholly exclusive to women but it also affects men and children.

To imagine that the selling of humans exists today in this modern world is unfathomable. Moreover, the amount of money that is profited from human misery really puts our morality into question.

Rudolf Buitendach directs a harrowing tale that will shock us and question our beliefs regarding the sex trade. Isobel (Frida Farrell) was a regular modern woman. She was educated, mother of one daughter, life partner to Mark and a Pilates instructor. It would have been inconceivable that her life would flip upside down with one chance encounter.

A professional photographer, Peter (Gabriel Olds), took an opportunity to proposition Isobel with a modelling contract for one of his reputable clients. He was well mannered, polite, dressed impeccably, married and not in the slightest bit sleazy.

Remaining deeply sceptical, Isobel took all the necessary precautions to determine whether or not he was genuine. She researched his company, discussed the matter with her partner, asked a friend to attend the test shoot (although she was available) and even queried Peter further before entering his apartment.

The test shoot went extraordinary well and Peter’s assistant Chloe (Amber Benson) was at hand to help her with whatever she wanted. In the days that followed, Peter contacted Isobel stating that the client was happy and he invited her back for the actual shoot.

At that precise moment when she walked through his door, Isobel was no longer going to be in control of her life. Photographed, drugged and taken to an unknown location, Isobel’s body was sold to multiple men for sexual gratification.

What is interesting with this film, is that Frida Farrell not only co-wrote the script with Glyn Turner and co-produced the feature, but she also plays the part of Isobel. I personally find it difficult to comprehend why she would want to place herself in a situation where she is re-enacting multiple scenes of sexual violence. The only explanation I can offer is that maybe it is her way of taking back control and shifting the balance of power.

Selling Isobel is her story and she wants to tell it as a survivor and not as a victim. It is miraculous that she was able to survive and tell the tale because for the majority of sex slaves, there is no escape.

In portraying Peter, actor Gabriel Olds provides a very convincing performance. His demeanour is initially unassuming and then he flips it into this man who is intent on doing his job. Isobel is now a commodity and that is how she is treated. Her life means nothing; her only purpose in life is to provide an income.

Director Rudolf Buitendach directs an engaging and disturbing film. Cinematography is expertly done by Stefan Ciupek (Slumdog Millionaire / Rush) and as Frida writes the story, we could not begin to question its authenticity.

But, what must be understood about Selling Isobel is that has not been embellished for horror consumption. It is not a ‘rape revenge’ movie like the infamous I Spit on your Grave. It is a cautionary tale and an education to those who remain blissfully ignorant.


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