Vancouver-based film-maker Penelope Buitenhuis toured the
world in her 20s, she bonded with anarchists in Berlin and
fell in with the art crowd in Paris- she even briefly flirted
with the idea of becoming a hostess to rich Japanese businessmen
after spending time with hostessing veterans in Southeast
was fascinated by their stories, but I just couldn't do it.
I don't think I have what it takes to look interested when
I'm not. I can't sit there and smile if someone is an idiot " says
Buitenhuis, who also directed the Gemini-nominated Giant
her reluctance to immerse herself in the hostessing world
as a participant, Buitenhuis decided to do so as an observer
and recently created Tokyo Girls, a National Film
Board documentary about life in subcultures of paid drinkers,
paid listeners and sometimes, paid bedmates to rich, lonely
film (which screens today at 9:30 p.m-, Robson Square) features
several interviews with former hostesses and contains more
than a few surprises as some of the paid conversations actually
lead to genuine loving relationships.
says she had a different idea in mind when she started the
journey. I was hoping to capture the darker side of the business
- the yakuza connections and the more sordid stuff, but the
spy-cams we were using didn't work well in low light so we
had a lot of footage of just glowing lights in black frames
without many people. For a while, we started choosing our
locations just on light levels," she says.
stuff like that happens it forces you to find creative solutions.
You can often get a better film out of it because you have
to embrace the material a a different level. In our case,
we decided to take a more metaphorical approach to deal with
what we couldn't see, and I think it really worked