Review: The Helper- A documentary about hope, compassion and love.




By Nicole Garbellini


"These are real people with real stories; not just domestic helpers. They are women, wives and mothers, confronting the perceived negativity and their own doubts to achieve the extraordinary, thanks to the supportive nature of the community itself - and those around it."

Joanna Bowers, Director




Last Sunday, on Mother's Day, I found myself invited to the Asia Society to check out The Helper, a new documentary presented by Cheeky Monkey Productions. It was filmed by Joanna Bowers and produced by Tony Verb.



We usually don't cover films and videos as HKELD normally sticks to live performances, but I somehow felt like bending the rules this time, and I'm glad I did. I was really curious to see how this documentary would be sided: when it comes to domestic helpers in Hong Kong, the topic is so wide that is impossible to cover everything at once. I was really interested to see how the filmmaker and her team prioritised and narrowed down the issues they face. 



The Helper narrates different stories involving Hong Kong’s domestic worker community, showing an unseen side of the lives of these women who are driven by love, hope, determination and willingness for a better future, for themselves and their loved ones. In a fast-paced city, renowned for its wealth and luxury, where everyone is so absorbed by one's own life, it is somewhat hard to slow down and recognise the effort that domestic helpers put into the life of others, let alone the sacrifice that they make in leaving their families behind. 



The documentary succeeds greatly in opening people's eyes and mind by creating much-needed awareness to certain issues: for example, do the families who these helpers work for actually consider what it's like to see your children and your loved ones once a year? Do we ever ask ourselves that question? The Helper points out the sacrifices that young and not-so-young migrant workers make. Often seen as the second mother in many homes, families rely on them for so many different reasons and yet they are not always appreciated. 



Ms Bowers' work is presented in a way that brings up a rollercoaster of emotions. As the documentary unravels stories lived by different women in similar and yet different situations, first sorrow and then anger kick in when hearing how exposed, and often how little supported, these women are. I felt really moved when hearing how much these mothers miss their own offspring while looking after other people's children as if they were their own. Whilst they were able to maintain a positive attitude and smiling eyes, there was no doubt they were suffering inside.



One of the most striking stories was about a domestic helper from Indonesia, who was first accused of theft by the family she was working for. Despite being found not guilty, this person found herself jobless, unable to go home as immigration was holding her documents during the court case (and she, consequentially overstayed her visa) and eventually homeless. All of this while carrying a child. From this point of view, the documentary made a great impact in stressing the importance and the great work that some local charities do, independent of the government. Stories of love and sacrifice happen every day, and they are all around us. It is time to acknowledge what we are surrounded with and it is time to say thank you. 



It would have been nice to understand the point of view of some local families, which could have perhaps offered a more rounded understanding of the helper experience given that the majority are employed by local families. Instead, the families interviewed in this documentary consisted solely of foreigners/gweilos living in plush places. Having mentioned this to the director, however, it became clear that the team had attempted to reach out to local families for an interview but were not able to find any who were willing to go on camera. I was also looking forward to a Q&A after the screening, but it didn't happen as it was probably related to logistic and timing at the venue.





Last but not least, I would like to express the lasting feeling of awesomeness that ended the documentary with the Unsung Heroes, a choir made up of helpers based in Hong Kong. Not only are they very talented but also radiant with light and hope. 



Director Joanna Bowers



Joanna and Tony's effort do not stop here: they have launched a campaign to raise awareness and appreciation towards domestic workers around the world. Click here to join





Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 5.0


No comment at the moment.

Post New Comment