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Exploring the Invisible Backbone of Hong Kong: A Review of 'The Helper'

'The Helper' is a powerful exploration of the lives of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, shedding light on their sacrifices and resilience.

Keywords: Migrant Workers, Hong Kong, Domestic Workers, Social Inequality, Sacrifice, Resilience


'The Helper', a documentary directed by Joanna Bowers and released in 2017, provides a heart-rendering depiction of the lives of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. In the midst of a global conversation on migrant rights and social inequality, this film is a timely exploration of the sacrifices these invisible heroes make for their families.


'The Helper' chronicles the diverse stories of Hong Kong's migrant domestic workers, shedding light on the invaluable contribution they make to the city's functioning. Despite their immense sacrifice and the heart-breaking separation from their loved ones, their resilience and spirit remain undeterred.

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This documentary takes an observational approach, allowing the stories of the workers to unfold naturally. The depth of subject exploration is profound, as is the quality of research, offering a nuanced perspective into the lives of these individuals.

Historical and Factual Context


Hong Kong has over 330,000 migrant domestic workers, primarily from Indonesia and the Philippines. They make up approximately 10% of the city's workforce.

Key themes in the film

  • Struggle and Sacrifice: The documentary highlights the hardship faced by migrant workers, who often leave their families behind for a better future.
  • Resilience and Strength: Despite the difficulties, the workers display immense courage and determination.
  • Social Inequality: The film brings to light issues of social disparity and exploitation.

Film Comparisons

Unlike other documentaries on migrant workers, 'The Helper' focuses on the personal stories and emotional journeys of these individuals, offering a more humanized perspective.

Noteworthy Moments

The moment when a domestic worker shares her song about longing for her family back home is particularly moving and powerful.


With an IMDB score of 7.1, 'The Helper' has been well-received, praised for its empathetic storytelling and compelling subject matter.


'The Helper' is a must-watch for anyone interested in social justice, migration, and human resilience. It offers a profound understanding of the often unseen sacrifices behind the functioning of a bustling city.

More film information:


  • IMDB score: 7.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
  • Metacritic score: N/A
  • Film festival awards: 1 nomination



  • Joanna Bowers: Director of the film
  • Several unnamed migrant domestic workers: Subjects of the documentary



  • Hong Kong: The city where the documentary is set

Key Questions Raised by the Film

  • What rights and protections should be afforded to migrant domestic workers?
  • How can social inequality be addressed in rapidly developing cities like Hong Kong?
  • How does the separation from family affect the mental health of migrant workers?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form

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  1. A famous book, it would be 'The Help' because of its exploration of domestic workers' lives.
  2. A famous song, it would be 'Man in the Mirror' by Michael Jackson, as it calls for societal change.
  3. A famous piece of art, it would be Picasso's 'The Weeping Woman', symbolizing the workers' sacrifice and pain.
  4. A famous celebrity, it would be Angelina Jolie for her humanitarian work.
  5. A colour, it would be grey, representing the workers' often invisible presence.
  6. A music style, it would be the Blues, reflecting the struggle and resilience in the face of adversity.