Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Martine Fokken, 69, takes the bus to work each morning. Her chihuahua tucked into her pocketbook, she passes rows of beat-up bicycles that straddle the Amstel river, and makes small talk with passers-by: “What a day for a bike ride,” she chirps to a man in the street. “Are you making coffee this morning?” he asks. Indeed, she is. Come by in half an hour. “Good morning, John!” she greets the local shopkeep. He greets her warmly. Then Martine gets right to the point. “I need condoms. Make it a box.” John doesn’t blink. “A box it is!” Ah, it’s just another day in the life of a senior-citizen prostitute who’s worked for 50 years in the heart of Amsterdam’s red light district. Her beloved twin sister, Louise, retired two years ago with arthritis. They share clothing, a love of painting, a taste for wine, and tales of johns of all shapes, sizes, and kinks. But Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schröder’s documentary doesn’t just mine the Fokkens for cheap laughs, though shots of wiggly geriatric nutsacks might yield a couple of those. Meet the Fokkens is a fascinating story of a changing industry, one that plenty of Amsterdam residents would prefer to forget. The Fokken twins have been in the business too long to mind other people’s contempt—half those twits are punters anyway, they might say. And it’s not like they chose the profession over a respectable desk job: Their foray into sex work was marred by tragedy and exploitation. Now, despite her old age, Martine stays in the business to make ends meet, navigating newfangled sex toys, competition from younger foreign women, and mounting financial hardship. But one thing hasn’t changed: The Fokkens are beloved, embraced by old friends and new when they stroll together through the street.