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Joy 2018

Joy Ogbeide


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Close to paying off her debts, a Nigerian sex worker in Austria coaches a reluctant novice, and assesses the risks of taking a faster path to freedom.

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About Joy 💬

Joy Ogbeide (Anwulika Alphonsus) is a young Nigerian woman caught in the vicious cycle of sex trafficking.

She walks the streets to pay off debts to her exploiter Madame (Angela Ekeleme), while supporting her family in Nigeria and hoping for a better life for her little daughter in Vienna.

Joy struggles to understand her role in this merciless system of exploitation when she is instructed by Madame to supervise Precious (Mariam Sanusi), a teenage girl fresh from Nigeria who is not ready to accept her fate.


Tens of thousands of Nigerian women walk the streets and work in brothels all over Europe. They are victims of an elaborate trafficking system, a kind of modern-day slavery forcing them to pay off horrendous debts. When I first read about Nigerian sex trafficking, what surprised and shocked me most was that there are no male pimps involved. The trafficking business is run almost entirely by women. It's women exploiting other women. The ''Madames'' are former prostitutes, once victims of trafficking themselves, who after paying off their debts, save money to buy new girls and bring them to Europe for sex work. A vicious cycle that blurs the lines between exploiters and victims.

Like Macondo (2014), JOY is based on extremely thorough research. What drives a woman who has experienced this kind of abuse to become a perpetrator herself? At what cost does freedom and personal well-being come? What is the role of the families and society in all of this? And is there a way out? Driven by these questions I started to explore this merciless system and the exploration ultimately lead me to Benin City, Nigeria, where the majority of the women comes from. I started to understand the life stories and circumstances of these women and develop more and more empathy with them. Also, it became increasingly difficult for me to make judgments about good and evil in this game. And this is what I would like the audience to feel and experience, too. See the world through the eyes of a woman who sees no other option than to participate in this perfidious system, experience her story with her, from her perspective.

I wanted to make a film that gives an intimate and authentic glimpse into the lives of trafficked women and to show them as subjects of their own stories. JOY reveals what we rarely see: the private moments, the everyday struggles, the complex power dynamics, the strength and dignity of these foreign women walking Europe's streets and red-light districts. The film‘s point of view is completely through the eyes of Joy. It's her journey and her relationship with her Madame and newcomer Precious that drive the story. There is no ''white savior.'' The johns, the nice guys as well as the brutes, remain minor characters.

I wrote JOY's screenplay incorporating many real-life stories I encountered in my research. I always shoot in chronological order and let the actors improvise as much as possible within the framework of the script, leaving them a lot of space to develop their characters and relationships, to have their own way of talking and interacting with each other. So, in a way, my actors are my co-authors and it is in no small part thanks to them that JOY has the intimacy and immediacy that I find necessary to tell this story.

Joy Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Sudabeh Mortezai

Writing Credits

Sudabeh Mortezai


Anwulika Alphonsus

Mariam Sanusi

Angela Ekeleme

Gift Ingweh

Sandra John

Chika Kipo

Ella Osagie

Christian Ludwig

Mary Kreutzer

Music by

Thomas Hohl

Cinematography by

Klemens Hufnagl

Genre: Drama

Country: Austria

Joy Official Trailer

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