May 24, 2012 -- Being old is not an advantage in the oldest profession. So it's no surprise that a filmmaker would spot a good story in 69-year-old twin sisters Louise and Martine Fokkens. Between them, they have more than 80 years' experience working as prostitutes in Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District.
"I can't tell you how many tricks we've had," says Louise. "Countless."
Louise retired two years ago, at age 67. With her arthritis, she says, "I couldn't get one leg over the other."
But Martine is still working the window, soliciting passing men, young and old, in her dominatrix outfit.
"She needs the money," says Louise. "You can't live off a state pension."
The film, in Dutch with English subtitles, is called (of course) "Meet the Fokkens." It opens for a two-week run at New York City's Film Forum on August 8. Distributors plan to release it in other major cities around the U.S. after that.
"This is the story we wanted to tell," directors Gabriëlle Provaas and Rob Schröde said in a statement. "Louise and Martine are real old-fashioned Amsterdam hookers: liberated, cheerful and not scared of anybody."
"You've been a whore," Louise tells her sister in the film. "You'll never get rid of that name. So be one."
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Sex workers have health benefits, work permits, even a union. But even in Amsterdam, it is not an easy life.
And in recent years, some Dutch officials say the industry has gotten out of control. Violence and human trafficking are on the rise. The mayor of Amsterdam has expressed concern that small-scale entrepreneurs are being pushed out by big crime organizations.
Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in order to protect sex workers. But recent reports have found that some sex workers, especially those brought in from other countries, have been forced into the business and are being abused by their pimps.
"Everything has changed," Louise says. "In the old days, the local cop would tap on the window if a girl was showing too much ankle. Now the girls deal coke from their cubicles."
Even in the oldest profession, apparently, there were good old days.