"Lovemobil" – documentary about sex work in Nierdersachsen: being used for a moment

In the middle of the night, on the edge of a country road in Lower Saxony, surrounded by forests and potato fields, one of Rita wants to know if she wants to swallow his sperm. "Can I take your head, push it down and fuck your throat?", He is at the window of Rita's motorhome. "Throat-fuck," says the man.

Rita opens the door. 100 euros. Be needed for a moment. Wind is blowing through the treetops above the camper, is this a job? Or is it exploitation? Rita, Milena and Uschi – two women who take money for sex and one who the camper provides them for it. The filmmaker Elke Lehrenkrauss accompanied these three people for her new documentary "Lovemobil". The film asks questions that have been hotly debated in Germany in recent years: Are sex workers oppressed victims who need to be liberated? Or is it patronizing to see it like this? Lehrenkrauss and the cameraman Christoph Rohrscheidt spent three years with the sex workers and their landlord, from 2015 to 2017. The camera went on on 60 days of shooting, but stayed away on many more days. Talking, building trust and friendship to all three, says Lehrenkrauss, 40. The film is her debut. It has made it into the pre-selection of the German Film Award. Lehrenkrauss' piece deserves the award.

5./7./8./14./15. March 2020: Hanover, Kino am Raschplatz6. March: Peine, Astoria-Theater8. March: Wittingen, Lichtspiele 11th / 16th / 17th / 18th / 19th March: Leipzig, UT Connewitz12./17. March: Hamburg, Zeise Kino 16./21. March: Braunschweig, Universum Filmtheater5. April: Lüneburg, Scala Other dates and times here.

Without judging her, the film tells of three lives. It's about Uschi, owner and landlord of motorhomes, 50 euros per car a day. It's about Rita and Milena, in their early 20s, from Nigeria and Bulgaria, who rent one of Uschi's cars to sleep in with men. But, as the film shows, they smoke, talk on the phone, sing, cry, live there too: they wash their underwear in the back, in the wash basin of the car, comb their wigs, watch series, learn German with apps on their cell phones, and in between Uschi comes. Uschi, gray curls, glued-on fingernails, pulls up in an old Benz, cashes in and usually freaks out. Rita shouldn't dry her underwear outside, Milena shouldn't lie, says Uschi, and runs away again.

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Landlord Uschi, sex worker Rita in "Lovemobil": Is this a job?
C. Rohrscheidt / E. Lehrenkrauss

When men come, especially at night, something brutal and intimate happens: first, what sex, how much should it be negotiated, then there are petting, smiling, opening pants. All of this can be seen in the film, uncensored. When the men are gone, the women are again alone with the sound of this darkness: racing car, total silence, racing car. Headlights are getting bigger and smaller, emerging fear, diminishing chance. Then comes the morning. Elke Lehrenkrauss and her cameraman were close to the women when they told the story. Her entire childhood and youth drove past the motorhomes in her home town of Gifhorn, and always wondered what was going on there, Lehrenkrauss told SPIEGEL. She left Gifhorn, initially, went to study at art schools in Cologne, Havana and Lucerne, made short films that were shown at festivals and in museums. Then she went back to Lower Saxony to answer the questions of her youth. She knocked on the women's doors.

Some agreed to show themselves in front of the camera. Men too. In the film, their faces are pixelated when they ask for a "throat fuck" or climb into the camper with the women. You can see men filming how they treat women like objects. "We were amazed at how readily the men agreed to the camera," says Lehrenkrauss. The film was not based on a script.

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But a camera can be painful if you want to spread out your life in front of it. Because of this, many women who initially agreed would have withdrawn. "Some women burst into tears at the first interview and said: One thing has to stop immediately, either filming or sex work," says Lehrenkrauss.Rita and Milena stayed. Rita told how she escaped from Nigeria by boat to Italy and found people there who mediated her to Uschi. "I have 99 problems and money is 99 of them," says Rita in the film. Her skin looks soft, her eyes are deep and sad. Milena tells how she spent her youth on the street, the mother dead, the father not there. "We sleep better on the street than go to the home," she said to her brother at the time. So that he has it well, she now wants to earn money for him here. Voluntary, right?

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Milena in "Lovemobil": "We sleep better on the street than go to the home"
C. Rohrscheidt / E. Lehrenkrauss

Prostitution has been legal in Germany – since a law passed in 2001 under SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It allowed sex workers to participate in the social security system and to claim their wages. 16 years later, the law was touched again: Now sex workers are obliged to register officially, to go regularly to the health department. And there is a condom requirement. The dispute remained unchanged. The German Women's Council, Amnesty International, green and left-wing politicians and professional associations for sex workers want to protect sex work. They want to prevent obligations and reduce discrimination. There are also those who associate sex work with coercion and violence and would like to ban it: Leni Breymaier, an SPD member of the Bundestag, or the publicist Alice Schwarzer. Who is right: from political Berlin to Gifhorn there are 243 kilometers by car. In the middle of the night, in the middle of society, here in Lower Saxony, Uschi doesn't ask about condoms or the health department. "The business is totally fucked up," she says instead in the film. It takes courage to see how much Rita and Milena suffer and freeze and cannot sleep. Rita's gaze as she knocks out the mat of her car from the tree trunk, her eyes clenched, her terrible anger. The conversations the women have on the phone with their mothers. These men who talk about big boobs and big cocks and who say Rita in the face: "I have a problem with your color. You are black." The brief moment when headlights illuminate the camper's cab and the women sit there like animals in the zoo. The night when one of Rita's and Milena's colleagues is found lifeless in her caravan.

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Rita in "Lovemobil": "99 problems, and money is 99 of them"
C. Rohrscheidt / E. Lehrenkrauss

Conditional, health department: Those for whom the new rules were written are sitting right here, but they don't have the luxury of being able to adhere to them. There are no laws in the film. Maybe nobody told the women about their rights. Maybe they didn't ask about it. Maybe Rita and Milena don't even have a residence permit. There is no plan in this place where it snows quietly and wind turbines rotate slowly, but the film Elke Lehrenkrauss made not only shows hopelessness, it also gives hope. It is possible to hold the discussion without taking away the dignity of the women in question, that is what Krauss teaches. "We were a team," she says, not referring to herself and her cameraman. But himself and those in front of the camera, also Uschi. "Uschi treated us as if we were her children," says Lehrenkrauss. And about Rita and Milena: "The women are psychologists. As soon as they roll down their window, they see what kind of person you are, what your ambitions are." Before anyone saw the film, the women saw it. You would have found him good, says Elke Lehrenkrauss. Uschi was surprisingly not upset. She is now retired, the mobile homes are sold. Rita and Milena would have left Lower Saxony. Where exactly and with what they now earn money should be kept secret to protect women.

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Motorhome in Lower Saxony: "Women are psychologists"
C. Rohrscheidt / E. Lehrenkrauss

And what about the dispute in Berlin? With all the questions? The viewer has to find the answers themselves, is it correct that one gender can buy the other? No. Does sex work have anything to do with sexuality? Yes, with that of men. Isn't it normal, nice work to get some shit after a night on the bus from Uschi? No. It’s humiliating. But women are free. Then they should just go? One time, Uschi is in a good mood right now, she stands at Rita's window in the motorhome and asks how she is. Rita doesn't feel like talking, Uschi is investigating, is there really nothing to bother you? Rita opens the door. Be needed for a moment. Wind rises through the treetops above the mobile home, then Rita tells her landlady that she may have fallen in love with one of the men. Uschi looks lovely, no hardness on her face anymore. "I know a lot of girls," she says. "Not one has ever met the right guy." Rita asks: “Have you ever really been in love?” Now Uschi tells of her past, in which a lot went wrong, a lot of poufs, a lot of men, but then one whom she really loved, with whom she had a child. "But he cheated on me," says Uschi. "With a woman in my bed." Uschi pauses, Rita looks shocked, and life is a cup, Uschi says. Every time something happens, break out a piece. "And at some point the cup is gone. Since then I've been alone," says Uschi. Rita nods. But at this moment there are two of them.
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