Happy Endings at the Columbus

We longtime Rhode Islanders navigate by where Almacs used to be. We know what the Columbus used to be. It is with great pleasure and irony I note that the Columbus, a lovely old neighborhood theater that turned into a porn venue in the latter part of the 20th Century, managed to survive the machinations of those who saw every old building as a potential parking lot. The porn industry, whether oppression, quick money for desperate people, or both, kept the roof on the place.

These days they show opera at the Columbus–how fine for an Italian neighborhood. I went there to see Bob Dylan’s last inscrutable movie. (He should stick to songwriting.) Indie movies show there. This June a particularly Providence movie will make its debut.

Tara Hurley is a courageous documentary film maker who dared to do what the police and the politicians seemed unable to do. She went into the ‘spas’ and interviewed the workers and owners. With the help of interpreters she talked to women who have one foot in Korea and one in the United States and asked them about their lives.

Tara Hurley’s documentary, ‘Happy Endings–You Can’t Clap With One Hand’ is showing at the Columbus Theatre, 270 Broadway, Providence, 621-9660 on June 5-6 at 7:00 and 9:15pm. You can buy tickets there or at Brown paper tickets online.

‘Happy Endings’ has been a hard sell, theaters are not clamoring to show it. In the documentary there are no clear heroes or villains, and the scenes are uncomfortably close to home if you are a Providence resident. The network of people who depend on the money that flows from the sex industry includes media, law and landlords. That’s only over the table.

Is prostitution a victimless crime? Kidnapping, extortion, assault and rape, corrupting minors and even failing to pay workers for overtime are all already against the law. How do we help people who have been disempowered? How do we fight the crime of indentured servitude, slavery, human trafficking? If human trafficking was only an imagined evil it would be easy, but unfortunately it is real.

Proposed laws that ‘close the loophole’ on indoor prostitution are founded in a trust that the prison system is a gateway to reform and justice. Those who just want the ‘spas’ out of their neighborhood have fair claims that should not be disparaged. As far as I know, the high income neighborhoods don’t have to deal with this.

So it’s not a feel-good movie, but ‘Happy Endings’ is a part of Rhode Island life that is worth knowing about.

For more information, check out Tara’s site.

and reviews at R.I. Future and Kmareka.

The film is rated 18 and over. I think they should rate it ‘U’ for uncomfortable truths.

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