Blowin' Up

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 18

Audience Score

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Movie Info

In 2004, the United States' first problem-solving court around prostitution was created in Queens County, New York. The court, presided over by the Honorable Toko Serita, attempts to redress the way women and young girls arrested for prostitution are shuffled through the criminal justice system. With unparalleled access to the workings of the court, BLOWIN' UP captures what it feels like to go through these criminal proceedings as a female defendant. The overwhelming majority of women arrested are undocumented Asian immigrants, black, Latina and transgender youth. As the film unfolds, we hear directly from these women, in their own words, and we begin to understand the complex scenarios that bring them into the courtroom. Never do we hear the words "sex worker" or "prostitute" spoken in the courtroom. Instead, Judge Serita and the court try to create a safe space for these women within the confines of a legal system where sex work and prostitution are criminalized. The question asked over and over by defense teams and social workers is: Why are these women arrested in the first place? As the film progresses, and a new administration takes over in the White House, the courtroom's fragile ecosystem is tested and the fates of those who pass through become less certain. Through Wang-Breal's patient filmmaking, these women slowly come into focus to reveal the interplay of the larger forces at work in their lives. A decidedly people-focused film, BLOWIN' UP exposes us to how individuals can work together to create more humane ways to navigate an inhumane criminal justice system and allows us to witness this unique environment as an unfiltered, immersive experience.


Critic Reviews for Blowin' Up

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (1)

  • Discreetly eavesdropping on counseling sessions as clients divulge often heartbreaking personal details, the filmmakers eschew narration in favor of a more fragmented, naturalistic approach.

    Apr 4, 2019 | Full Review…
  • With intimate access and a sharp eye for small details and big ideas, it's an eye-opening documentary that deserves an audience...

    Apr 4, 2019 | Full Review…

    Nick Schager

    Top Critic
  • Blowin' Up offers one of the most hopeful real-world visions of heroic women - from the judge and DAs to the attorneys, social workers, counselors and, not least, the defendants - ever to fill the screen.

    Apr 27, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The movie does have a verdict: It's time to change up the way we police, criminalize, and vilify sex workers without hearing their stories.

    Apr 24, 2018 | Rating: A | Full Review…

    Jude Dry

    Top Critic
  • The characters are riveting and the photography is casually stylish, but the real highlight is the urgency of the work Wang-Breal captures.

    Apr 19, 2018 | Full Review…
  • I think it's rather shapeless... You don't really find out what these sessions accomplish.

    Sep 26, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Blowin' Up

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