In anticipation of Domésticas (Maids), by award-winning Brazilian directors Fernando Meirelles and Nando Olival, I was anxious to see a film that shined a light on the suppressed existence Brazilian housemaids are forced to endure. I have already witnessed firsthand in Sao Paulo these women toiling for practically no wages by cooking, cleaning, and scrubbing for upper class families. I'd also listened to many stories from teenage boys from prosperous families frequently losing their virginity to these housemaids. Many of these young Brazilian men laughed exuberantly in retrospect as they shared their personal stories of sexual indulgence, obliviously harkening back to the abuses of slavery. Disappointingly, while Domésticas uses humor to touch on some of these disheartening issues, it fails to make a compelling statement that truly empathizes with the Brazilian housemaid's cause.
The film is shot in pseudo-documentary format and follows five women's lives as domestic laborers and their bleak existence outside of their jobs. One thing they all share is a deep hatred of their employers, who oddly are never shown in the film. While they all have different reasons for ending up in their current occupation, the most frequent explanation is that the women were born into it. In fact, the most profound statement of the entire movie is the very first line, when a housemaid talks about a long lineage of maids dating back to the days of slavery. Frighteningly, the lack of upward mobility associated with their jobs still eerily mirrors a form of indentured servitude.
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