The Pink House is a documentary about Questa Casta, Australia’s longest-running brothel located in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. Of course, it’s more than that: it’s a personal profile of the women working there (Madame Carmel and sex worker B.J.), it’s an insight into the strained economics of a remote mining town, it’s an examination of the fraught politics of prostitution.
This is an unambitious film, that carefully avoids overt judgement or sensationalism even as it bears witness to some shocking events. Filmmakers Sascha Ettinger Epstein and Claire Haywood opt for an objective approach that allows you to empathise with their subjects while recognising their contradictions. That said, the documentary would have benefited from a broader perspective – a more substantial conversation with someone in the Asian sex worker would’ve allowed for interrogation of a persistent undercurrent of racism.
The Pink House doesn’t necessarily present a robust representation of contemporary prostitution. But it does demonstrate how small towns like Kalgoorlie can exacerbate the imprisoning effect of industry – whether its mining or sex work. B.J.’s story is a sad but familiar one, of familiar neglect and abuse leading her into prostitution. But sadder still is her subsequent inability to break out into something new.