Easily one of the most depressing films you will see this year, Who Cares? shines a light on a side of the sex trade industry that many of us choose to blissfully ignore. Prostitution has always been a dangerous profession, but nowadays crimes against sex trade workers seem to be at an all time high. It is getting to the point where police are unable to keep up with all the prostitute related murders. In Edmonton, the police have instituted a special Project Kare tasks force designed to collect DNA samples and personal information (e.g. name, nickname, next of kin) from sex trade workers. This will allow police to have a better chance of notifying loved ones if the person goes missing or a body is found.
Director Rosie Dransfeld shows us the thankless job that the Project Kare group must endure as they drive around night after night trying to collect samples from sometimes reluctant sex trade workers. It gets to the point where the officers occasionally forget that they have already gathered a sample from a particular individual, as the women are constantly changing street corners and times of operation. There is a sense of hopelessness in the whole endeavour as the police do not condone prostitution, yet they do not want to see the women harmed either. Even if they arrest all of the sex trade workers, they will only be back on the streets the next night.
Although Who Cares? is centred around the Project Kare program, the majority of the documentary actually focuses on the sex trade workers themselves. At one point Dransfeld gives one of the women, Courtney, a video camera so that she can document her life now that she has left the sex trade world. However, being away from the trade does not necessarily mean that others will see Courtney as anything more than what she once was. While some of the women are trying to rise above their past, the sad reality is that they have incurred too much in their life for them to ever have a truly “normal existence”. It is amazing that the women have survived this long once they begin to share their devastating cycle of addiction and violence. It is heartbreaking to hear Shelly recount the stories of her working the street while pregnant with her daughter, and her continual battle with crystal meth. In an odd way the documentary reminded me of the film Precious in the sense that the sad, and at times horrific, stories each woman has keeps piling on and on. Even some of the individuals who represent stability and strength for the women have their own sad and dark past.
One thing that would have been beneficial to the film is to provide more insight into the emotional effects that working on Project Kare has had on the law enforcement officials. Outside of two individual, you really do not get a sense of the police officers that work on the task force. At times Project Kare and the task force almost become an afterthought as the women take up most of the screen time. More knowledge about the Project Kare workers would have made the film more balanced. Despite this unevenness, and gut wrenching sadness, Who Cares? is a film that will stick with the viewer for quite some time. Though not always successful, Who Cares? leaves the viewer with plenty to think about.