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To reach the oasis, you must cross the desert

Rita Director
Regissør: George Danopoulos

PROSTITUTION / The short documentary Rita is the story of a prostitute of the old school in Athens.


Rita is a touching tale of a prostitute's fate in Athens. With her latest documentary, George Danopoulos paints a picture of this woman named Rita – a heartbreaking film that expresses her own poetic beauty, in the midst of misery.

We will never know her age, just that she can no longer be counted as any youth, but that she is not yet at the end of her career. We never see her face where she gives us a tour around the workplace while she tells her story. "This place is my life," she says. "This is where I grew up, experienced [...] being beaten by life, giving and taking, failing. Everything happened here. " On the wall is a clock with a picture of Marilyn Monroe, and in the background an old Lionel Richie song is played.

Few quit once they have started

You don't start out as a prostitute with an awareness of that; rather, it is an impulsive decision. It is only after a certain time that you think about it and realize what choice you have made and what it costs you. You either have the courage to quit, or the courage to keep going. And it is in this phase of life that Danopoulos meets Rita. Her thoughts and experiences are probably the same as many other women in the same profession, and yet it is all very personal. There is no noticeable social indignation, which would have been natural, for her situation is really degrading. No judgment is shared here. Instead, the director has a strong urge to understand and to listen, so it's up to Rita how she wants to present herself.

You either have the courage to quit, or the courage to keep going.

She is honest. She has always liked certain parts of the job, especially the interaction with the customers. She still does; that's one of the reasons she keeps going. She thinks it's touching when a customer she hasn't seen in fifteen years comes over to her, gives her a real hug and asks how her son is doing.

Rita claims that 95 percent of women who work in this industry do so because they like it and that very few give up after a short while.

Seeking refuge in literature. Still, it seems we are witnessing a long-term goodbye. The spectator gradually gets an impression of how things change the longer you are in this profession. You get stuck in the daily pursuit; it becomes routine. You stay as long as needed, trying to create a better life in order to give your child a better future.

Rita talks about her personal problems for a long time. The money she has earned has given her the life she has wanted, but the price has been high to pay. She can't sleep at night. Get up, smoke, read, then go back to bed.

Reading is part of her personal defense system. She started reading at the school library when she was 15, and she plans to continue reading for the rest of her life. It is her escape from existence. Her earliest literary memory is basement Man by Dostoevsky, and today is her absolute favorite Crime and punishment by the same author. Maybe because of Sonja, the novel's whore with the pure heart, but she's not quite sure if that's why.

To reach the oasis, you must cross the desert

The pictures in front of us are mostly blurry and hold in shades of black and red. Here and there you get a glimpse of the worn-out brothel, with stripped-down wall paint and old pipe laying. Rolls of toilet paper and packages of condoms. Vampy jazz music accompanies it all. Rita continues to talk about the importance of sharing her inner space between work and private time. For her, nothing is better than coming home in the winter, lighting the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa and reading. That's where she goes, as she says. It's just the book and her, nothing else. Or rather her and the world created by the book.

At one point she quotes Camus: "In the middle of winter I found that inside me it was an invincible summer."

Rita never found summer, but she found God in the middle of her own winter. She understands the need to seek comfort and strength to keep going, and this is part of the insight we are left with after seeing this sensitive and eloquent documentary. A rare glimpse of a woman trying to make the most of her life situation, or – as Rita herself says – the knowledge that to reach the oasis, you must cross the desert.

Hans Henrik Fafner
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Ny Tid. Residing in Tel Aviv.

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