What drives a woman who has experienced this kind of abuse to become a perpetrator herself? At what cost does freedom and personal well-being come? What is the role of the families and society in all of this? And is there a way out? Driven by these questions I started to explore this merciless system and the exploration ultimately lead me to Benin City, Nigeria, where the majority of the women comes from. I started to understand the life stories and circumstances of these women and to develop more and more empathy with them. Also it became increasingly difficult for me to make judgements about good and evil in this game. And this is what I would like the audience to feel and experience, too. See the world through the eyes of a woman who sees no other option that to participate in this perfidious system, experience her story with her, from her perspective.
I wanted to make a film that gives an intimate and authentic glimpse into the lives of trafficked women and to show them as subjects of their own stories. JOY reveals what we rarely see: the private moments, the
everyday struggles, the complex power dynamics, the strength and dignity of these foreign women walking Europe‘s streets and red-light districts. The film‘s point of view is completely through the eyes of Joy. It‘s her journey and her relationship with her Madame and newcomer Precious that drive the story. There is no “white saviour.” The johns, the nice guys as well as the brutes, remain minor characters.
I wrote JOY‘s screenplay incorporating many real life stories I encountered in my research. I always shoot in chronological order and let the actors improvise as much as possible within the framework of the script, leaving them a lot of space to develop their characters and relationships, to have their own way of talking and interacting with each other. So, in a way my actors are my co-authors and it is in no small part thanks to them that JOY has the intimacy and immediacy that I find necessary to tell this story.
She made her feature debut in 2014 with MACONDO which premiered in competition at the Berlinale 2014 and garnered numerous international awards.
2018 - JOY
2014 – MACONDO
2009 – IN THE BAZAR OF THE SEXES, doc.
2006 – CHILDREN OF THE PROPHET, doc.
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Sudabeh Mortezai
Written by: Sudabeh Mortezai
Produced by: Sabine Moser, Oliver Neumann
Cinematography: Klemens Hufnagl
Editing: Oliver Neumann
Production Design: Julia Libiseller
Costume Design: Carola Pizzini
Sound: Atanas Tcholakov
Main Cast: Joy Anwulika Alphonsus (Joy), Precious Mariam Sanusi (Precious)
Nominations and Awards
- EFA Feature Film Selection 2019