Apartment 407

Apartment 407: a young mother foolishly is duped into trafficking when set up “in the real world”

A public relations firm emailed me about the film “Apartment 407”, directed by Rudolf Buitendach, with regard to countering trafficking.

Now I had reviewed “I Am Jane Doe” here (now removed blog) April 3, 2018 and this film does graze the subject of putting more responsibility on websites toward the end, as I had discussed early with respect to the FOSTA law which Congress passed and Trump signed last spring.

First, as to the plot. Isobel (Frida Farrell) is a fitness instructor and wants to start her own Pilates studio, and help other women rehab from injuries or illness.  I would add I don’t think I’ve taken a fitness class since 1989.  I use LA Fitness (formerly Bally’s) randomly.

And she appears to be married (Matthew Marsden) and be very attentive to two young daughters. One day she goes into a coffee shop and a homeless man walks in and begs her for a meal.  I’ve never seen a business like that tolerate panhandling inside the establishment. Then Peter (Gabriel Olds), watching, gets her into a conversation and invites her to his apartment to do a photo job for a cruise liner.  Now, it seems rather incredible that she would fall for it and actually go.  Peter skillfully manipulates her like a high pressure salesman to get her to start.  I saw a lot of this psychology in job interviews after I retired myself, and it seemed to lead the whole culture down a rabbit hole.

Suddenly, in his spacious high rise apartment studio, he kidnaps and binds her and users her as a prostitute.  The rest of the film largely concerns her desperate struggle to survive and her escape at the end.  The film credits say Peter was never caught and was traced to Eastern Europe or Russia.   The film gets quite brutal, and it is likely she would get HIV.  It’s apparent that Peter is tied into the mob and organized crime, probably organized overseas and possibly indicative of Russian infiltration into the US.

Imdb seems to indicate that the real incident happened in London, but the film was shot in the US and the city looks like Louisville KY to me.

There is a critical sequence where Peter says to her, “you trapped yourself, you didn’t have to come here”, and “some people were born to serve others.”  That sounds like (Medium’s) Umair Haque’s attacks on capitalism by referring to the belief “some people are born better than others.”  Maybe that’s the heart of the culture wars.  (No, capitalism is not to blame.)

The music score contains the wonderful song “You can’t hurt me no more”.  In one critical violent scene, there is a requiem mass in the background; I couldn’t find it in the credits;  was it Durufle’s?

Let’s come back to the subject of FOSTA.  The act seems to have been borne by a mob puritanism, that you have to protect young girls by stamping out sex work everywhere.  Like marijuana use, you just drive it underground.  I don’t think the law was necessary or will work in practice.  But it does reflect the belief that online platforms must have their liability exposure restored (reducing Section 230 protections) to protect mostly young women (sometimes men), probably many of them underage (and there are plenty of other laws that already apply), and many of them taken overseas.  The net result is that platforms have to shut down a lot of tangential use (dating hookups, various kinds of discussions perhaps of HIV avoidance) from ordinary users who have nothing to do with prostitution or trafficking.  This is the whole idea of expecting individuals to make personal sacrifices for the common good – something China likes to do (OK, will we have our own “social credit scores” some day – I wonder).

In the plot of the film, Isobel was not lured by a website;  she was enticed in a real world setup (if you believe that the coffee shop scene is deliberately set up to entrap her). So FOSTA would not have prevented it.  But at about 1:24 in the film, Isobel mentions the “website s___” and the fact that largely overseas websites do try to entice mostly young women into this “trade”.  (Of course they would violate a legitimate host’s AUP.)

The dialogue implies that perhaps telecom companies (after loss of network neutrality) could supplement FOSTA by refusing connection to certain overseas websites.

This is an important film, although hard to watch. I don’t recall that it came to theaters in the DC area.

From Red Arrow Studios, Formosa Films, Gravitas Venturas.