a film by Rosa von Praunheim
2011 | 84 mins | Germany
›› Rent Boys - Die Jungs vom Bahnhof Zoo
an eye-opening insight into the Berlin rent boy scene.
Rent Boys by Rosa von Praunheim If you've ever wondered how the notorious Berlin rent boy scene has changed over the years, then this insightful, if at times disturbing documentary from writer and director Rosa von Praunheim sets out to provide the answers by way of the words of those who once worked in and around Bahnhof Zoo train station, then West Berlin's central transport facility and home to a lot more besides.

Opening with archive footage from July 1965 of an official police anti-hustling campaign, the rent boy scene is a rife today, as it was over four decades ago. Yet certain things have changed. For with the fall of the wall, coupled with the opening up of East European borders, the reality is that relatively few of the boys vying for trade, are native German. Now seemingly immigrant dominated, all arrive in Berlin with the hope that their good looks and body can earn them far more than a life spent begging.

Rent Boys by Rosa von Praunheim Only behind all the smiles and money quickly spent lie a series of harrowing tales of physical and sexual abuse, of broken homes and of an addiction to drugs of almost every kind. Thankfully some of those featured eventually got their act together, either by choice or by lack of clients and walked away relatively unharmed. Others however, as in the case of Daniel René become victims to paedophile predators ever on the lookout for fresh faces, alarmingly as young as 11, 12 or 13. Unaware of safe sex and the inherent dangers of the game, many would come to pay a high price for working the bars and the stations, the sex cinemas and the streets, this in spite of the valued work of Berlin's SUB / WAY support group who by way of education and free medical checks, try their best to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

In short, within eighty-four minutes this eye-opening work says it like it is and frankly, it's a sorry story. Yet amongst the heart-rending life stories told, signs of humanity are equally to be found, escorts who lovingly bring their families with them to settle in Berlin, a point that underlines the fact that the overwhelming majority of the boys are gay for pay, their hustling ways having nothing to do with their sexuality. That this is not the first, nor will it be the last feature to document the lives of those who inhabit the rent boy scene; be it the Johns, the boys or their carers, goes without saying. Yet what all works have in common is the fact that most of those hustling their nights away never think of the mental and physical consequences, until it is too late. Only by then, fresh faces have come to replenish old stock, leaving hopes, dreams, if not lives lying by the wayside, as this informative documentary poignantly illustrates that with tales of fights, criminality and even murder in the mix, there's no such thing as easy money.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the photographic full monty. 
Overall - file under ... 3 stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.
available on DVD as part of the Breaking Glass Pictures catalogue: 18.October.2011.
screened as part of the 25th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2011
featuring: Daniel, Daniel René, Danny, Klaus,
Lonel, Nazif and on / off partner Robert, Romica and his wife Simone,
with filmmaker Peter Kern, Master Patrick and former
Children's Home Adviser, Holger.
from SUB / WAY support group:
Sergiu Grimalschi, Lutz Volkwein, Wolfgang Werner
and Doctor Claudia Thomas.
and with the participation of:
Oliver and Achim / the Blue-Boy Bar and Uli Menzel and Olaf / the Tabasco Bar.
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #433
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