IDFA: La Mami

In the Barba Azul Cabaret in Mexico City, the women dance and drink with the men who can afford it. In the little restroom upstairs, Mami looks after them at the start and end of their shifts.

As long as Mami gets her tip, she looks after the bags, makes sure there’s enough toilet paper, and is always ready for a comforting or supportive heart-to-heart. She’s quick to deliver one of her idiosyncratic maxims, such as, “Men are only good for two things: for nothing, and for money.”

This intimate documentary is largely set within the four walls of Mami’s domain. Among the girls and women putting on their makeup in front of the mirrors, we principally follow the newest dancer, Priscilla. She started dancing at the cabaret so she can afford to pay the hospital bills for her 22-year-old son, who has cancer. For her, and many of the other women, Mami’s room is a safe haven remaining in a nocturnal world that’s being transformed.

Extended Q&A with director Laura Herrero & writer and former coördinator of My Red Light, the first window brothel in the world that is run by prostitutes themselves, Justine Le Clerq , moderated by IDFA programmer María Campaña Ramia. A talk about the question this film raises: Does this place bring freedom and financial independence to these women, or does it hold them tightly in its grip just because of the financial benefits it brings?

This is a part of De Balie x IDFA: Doc Talks