Tara Hurley directed and produced Happy Endings?, a cinéma vérité documentary film released in 2009. It was shot for 27 months and follows the lives of women working in massage parlors in Rhode Island during a debate in the state legislature to make prostitution illegal once more. Prostitution was lawful in Rhode Island throughout the filming era as long as it was done behind closed doors.
The word ‘happy ending’ refers to the practice of a masseur providing a client with a sexual release.
The documentary looks at the Rhode Island Asian massage industry. Happy Endings? uses guerrilla filmmaking techniques to follow the life of one spa worker (‘Heather’) while intertwining interviews with two other spa workers, then-Mayor David Cicilline, the Providence Police Vice Department, State Representative Joanne Giannini, State Senator Rhoda Perry, The Providence Phoenix staff, residents, and ‘johns,’ ‘janes,’ or massage parlor clients.
The argument shifts from the development of anti-prostitution laws to anti-prostitution and human trafficking laws over two years. Human trafficking is explored extensively in the film, although this relationship is never confirmed.
The video provides insight into the lives of the women at the center of the discussion, their challenges, and the strength they retain to survive, through candid one-on-one interviews. The filmmaker nicknamed all of the sex workers after her roommates while a student at Providence College since the women in the massage parlors did not want their names publicized.
In terms of aesthetic, genre, and finance, Happy Endings? is considered an underground film. The international premiere took place in New York at the Anthology Film Archives as part of the Cinekink film festival in 2009. The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, and AS220 in Providence also screened it.
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