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It’s an astonishingly courageous venture that comes with a heavy cost – at one point Hsiao confesses to suicidal thoughts – and, in spite of flashes of gallows humour among the women, alcohol abuse and constant health risks are common. Intriguingly, none of the working women Hsiao meets has been trafficked directly into prostitution; rather, they’ve taken it up as the only employment option that offers a reasonable income for illegal immigrants – which, of course, raises its own questions.
‘Sex: My British Job’ is not a campaigning film with a neat narrative – there’s no climactic police bust or tirade to legalise prostitution – but it’s hard to come away from this without favouring some sort of regulation, while the official policy towards immigrants is left looking as shabby as ever. Brilliant and almost unwatchably frank reportage.