The original Dutch title of Rob Schröder and Gabrielle Provaas’ documentary Meet The Fokkens is Ouwehoeren, a colloquial expression that roughly translates as “chitchat,” which befits a movie that largely consists of two 69-year-old Amsterdam twin sisters talking about their lives and experiences. But the term also derives from “old whores,” which is just as apt. Louise is a retired prostitute—she quit at age 67—while Martine still has a window in the Red Light District, and still gets customers. The sisters have a lot to say: about the 9-5 grind of a career in sex-work, about the ways the business has changed, and about what they’ve learned about men. And Schröder and Provaas frame their conversation well, making good use of the color, the reflective surfaces, and the surfeit of exposed younger flesh in the District.
Following their subjects’ lead, Schröder and Provaas adopt a lively, often comic tone for Meet The Fokkens, reveling in the absurdity of these two gray-haired, portly old biddies buying condoms by the box and shopping for new sex toys. At times, the film goes too far in the “look at these foul-mouthed grannies” direction. Given that Meet The Fokkens is only 76 minutes long, and given how much these sisters have seen, the documentary could use more anecdotes and more straightforward biography—especially covering the years when Louise and Martine operated their own brothel, before the government shut them down—and fewer scenes of the gals being amusingly worldly.
But Schröder and Provaas don’t shy away from the realities of the Fokkens’ lives, either. They shoot fairly explicit footage of some of Martine’s appointments—including one bizarre-looking dominatrix session—and listen to their stories about abusive husbands/pimps, children lost to the foster-care system, and regrets over choices made when they were in their 20s. Ultimately, Meet The Fokkens isn’t a documentary about elderly hookers; it’s about two women forced into a hard life by circumstance, who tried to make the best of their situation, and are trying still.
Note: Meet The Fokkens is being screened with Ruth Lingford’s lovely 11-minute animated short, “Little Deaths,” which uses flowing abstractions and human figures to illustrate audio clips in which men and women attempt to describe what an orgasm feels like.