Revolving Door: a victimless crime
A man cruises St Kilda’s streets in his car at night, and talks about his experiences visiting prostitutes. Sex worker Gillian talks about what it’s like being a prostitute. The police patrol St Kilda and pick up Gillian on suspicion of prostitution.
Summary by Kate Matthews
While Gillian is its main focus, Revolving Door also makes effective use of contrasting viewpoints around illegal street prostitution. This man’s assertions that street prostitution is a ‘victimless crime’ are contradicted by scenes of Gillian’s experiences with the law and, later, a violent client..
The narrative’s shifts in perspective are interesting as Gillian gets picked up by the police. The camera switches between a street perspective and a view from the back of a police car. At the same time, we alternate between Gillian’s thoughts on the decision to work as a street prostitute and the police’s perspective of the situation as they approach her.
Revolving Door Synopsis
An experimental, animated documentary examining street prostitution in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. Revolving Door cuts between different perspectives to create a snapshot of St Kilda’s illegal sex industry. Residents protest against the sex trade on their doorsteps. Police pick up sex workers, charge them at the police station and release them on bail – the 'revolving door’ of the title. A man makes frank and often disturbing revelations about his visits to the area to pick up prostitutes. Gillian, who became a sex worker after surviving a traumatic childhood and teenage years as a ward of state, works the beat, has run-ins with the law, watches anti-prostitution protests from the sidelines and talks about her struggles with the job and heroin addiction.
Revolving Door is rotoscoped, a process of copying or tracing and colouring frames of video. According to its directors, husband and wife team David and Alexandra Beesley, this decision was made in part to protect the anonymity of their subjects.
The finished film’s form is the result of a long evolution. They initially intended a conventional documentary with a linear narrative on the subject of the revolving door syndrome. Over time, it transformed into its current form. They started shooting in 1989, on analog Beta-SP, later switched to digital video, and continued shooting over a period of many years. After obtaining funding from the Australian Film Commission’s Experimental Digital Production Fund, animating the film took a painstaking four years.
The rotoscoped visuals and inter-cut narrative allow changes in perspective and shifts between subjectivity and observation, creating a multifaceted portrait of the issue. 'Gillian’ was the name and persona that director-producer Alexandra Beesley adopted in her years as a sex worker but the Gillian we see on screen is by turns narrator, interviewee, subject of discussion and, when she is picked up by the police, suspect. Revolving Door has a partner website, in which more of Gillian’s story is revealed.
For another short experimental animation about St Kilda, with a different focus, see Maggie Fooke’s Pleasure Domes (1987).
Revolving Door has screened at multiple international festivals, including the 2007 St Kilda Film Festival, and was broadcast on SBS in March 2008. It was nominated for a Dendy Award and received awards at festivals including Videobrasil 2007 and the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival 2007.
Notes by Kate Matthews