THE CANAL STREET MADAM
Until an FBI bust upended her life, Jeanette Maier was a successful New Orleans madam. Her discreet clientele included a number of powerful, high-ranking politicians. The ensuing very public trial - both in the courtroom and in the media – focused salaciously on the fact that Jeanette’s brothel was a family affair – Jeanette ran the business with her mother and she employed her own daughter as an escort.
Jeanette and her family ended up infamous, their futures blighted by felony convictions, yet their well-connected clients escaped exposure. Now, the Canal Street Madam sets out to reinvent herself, to reclaim her public persona, and to protect her family as she fights back against a system that silences the powerless and protects the elite.
This verité documentary offers a first person, intimate view of lives rarely seen on their own terms. It reveals the cost of public exposure and how unequal enforcement of the law plays out for sex workers and for their clients. It uses FBI wiretaps, brothel home-movies, and haunting ‘80s stripper and family snapshots to create a complex portrait of their lives and motivations.
The Canal Street Madam becomes a behind-the-scenes indictment of hypocritical politicians, the challenges of single parenthood, and the lack of protection for women whom society relegates to an underclass, yet who service society’s most powerful.
Directed by Cameron Yates
2010, 78 minutes
Purchase: $295 | Classroom rental: $95
* Official Selection, SXSW Film Festival, 2010
* Official Selection, Hot Docs Film Festival, 2010
"The Canal Street Madam is a portrait of a very complicated woman living a very complicated life... She is wild, shrewd, intense, generous, manipulative, loyal, self-aggrandizing, incredibly sad and incredibly funny.” – Filmmaker Magazine
"Fascinating. The Canal Street Madam is a compulsively watchable documentary.” – Cinematical
" The Canal Street Madam is highly recommended as it offers a unique and valuable insight into a world normally obscured by fear and shame. Maier's story not only makes a case for the decriminalization of brothels, but, also highlights the tremendous difficulties facing even the most resourceful of single mothers in the United States, making the film an excellent addition to gender and women's studies courses. Above and beyond its potential curricular use, the film is quite simply fun to watch". - Educational Media Reviews Online
"Mature audiences will have a lot to discuss after this film, and perhaps the only real lesson is that a society is a tangle of moral contradictions.[...] Suitable for college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of sexuality/gender, anthropology of crime/deviance, and American studies, as well as general audiences". - Anthropology Review Database