When you first hear the title “BLOWIN’ UP” you really have no idea what the film is about. But once you read about it and watch the film/documentary it makes you realize how important this film is, and how it has really given a voice to those who are invisible and voiceless. The entire documentary (written and directed by STEPHANIE WANG-BREAL) is about the Queens County Court House, where cases upon cases of human trafficking incidences are heard. Queens is also where a large majority of Chinese women get trafficked through massage parlors, and hidden brothels and sadly the majority are exploited, used and abused. In addition the situation is more than just Chinese women being trafficked with many women of color also being arrested and required to attend court to decide their fate. 

The film focuses on a strong team of service providers, defense lawyers, prosecutors and a judge/magistrate ( Japanese American  Toko Serita) who work together cohesively and tirelessly to ensure the women arrested are not treated as offenders, but are viewed as victims with counselling and rehabilitation the sentences that they are given. 

It is an extremely powerful documentary and really shines a light on this reality, that in the US, this is a major problem, which is not spoken enough about in the mainstream. As someone like myself who has worked with Asian women who have been trafficked in Australia, this documentary is definitely one I was anticipating to watch. The Queens Court House “team” if I can call it that, really is a support and a lifeline for these women, who get into sex work and get trafficked. They really change the way the criminal justice system actually looks at women in sex work. It follows the lives of those “heroines” who dedicate their lives working to save these women from persecution, but it also follows the lives of women who are in this line of work, who are being exploited, abused and have been arrested. In many ways, being arrested is their ticket out of this life, and this court house team, really uses the “arrest” as an exit plan for many of these women. 

There are many obstacles, trials and tribulations, good news, bad news and also a nasty visit from ICE agents who essentially “ransacked” the Queens court house for what they consider as “illegals” in the US. A documentary which to me is a must watch,  and one which will open your eyes to this reality happening right in front of us. 

WANG-BREAL, is really courageous in how she was able to effectively give a voice to the invisible, the vulnerable and the defenseless. It is no wonder her documentary “BLOWIN’ UP” won the Best Documentary Feature at this years San Diego Asian Film Festival Gala. Well deserved indeed. 

Images via BLOWIN’ UP website