SEXHUM adopts a creative methodological approach integrating ethnographic observation and semi-structured interviewing with collaborative ethnographic filmmaking (ethnofiction) through which groups of migrant sex workers expressed their lives and realities.

This innovative approach is inspired by Jean Rouch’s ethnofictions, which included research subjects as active producers and performers of their own interpretations by transcending the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, participation and observation, knowledge and emotions. 

SEXHUM’s films emerge from the collaborative writing of fictional characters and stories as a strategic way to express and analyse migrant sex workers’ individual and collective understandings and experiences of agency and exploitation. 

They were produced and edited in collaboration with associations representing communities of migrant sex workers, some of whose members also acted the roles and histories they wrote. This methodology seeks to maximise the collaboration with migrants while protecting their identities, when they so wish. 



CAER (CAUGHT) is a collaborative documentary that was produced in the context of SEXHUM, a research project on migration, sex work and trafficking using collaborative filmmaking as a strategic research method.

Film website:

The film is the result of the collaboration between Nicola Mai, the principal investigator of the project, and the TRANSgrediendo Intercultural Collective, a grass root association defending the rights of trans Latina migrant women in Queens, New York City.

The method of the film, ethnofiction, is based on the use of fictional methods to include stigmatised populations in the collaborative production of their own representations.

The story and the roles in the film were written by members of the TRANSgrediendo Intercultural Collective and are played by non-professional actresses, including some of the original co-authors, who were also involved in the editing of the film.

CAER expresses the lives and struggles for recognition and justice of a very stigmatised social group. It shows the two protagonists, Rosa and Paloma as they fight transphobic violence, persecution from the police and defend their cases of trafficking in an increasingly anti-migration political environment in the US. The film also shows trans Latina women fighting for their rights through public demonstrations and by applying for humanitarian protection (T Visa), while expressing their identities in positive ways during a drag show that allows them to counter their marginalization and stigmatisation.

CAER includes several debate scenes during which the film protagonists talk about important issues concerning the trans Latina population in Queens such as police persecution, the difference between sex work and trafficking and the lack of occupational alternatives to sex work.

The fictional story is framed within the feedback screening of the film to the members of the TRANSgrediendo Intercultural Collective who collaborated in its making ahead of the final editing, who discuss their involvement and the story and characters they wrote in relation to their personal and collective experiences.

CAER is first and foremost a tribute to the work and legacy of Lorena Borjas, the mother of Latin trans women living in Queens, who was one of the first victims of COVID-19 in New York and passed away on 30 March 2020.

CAER was selected for the Outfest Fusion LGBTQ People of Color Film Festival 2021; the Sheffield DocFest 2021 (UK competition); the Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2021, and the Newfest LGBTQ+ NYC Film Festival 2021. It was awarded a special mention at the 2021 AL BORDE Festival Internacional de Cine Transfeminista and won the 2021 International Trans Film Festival Divergenti in Italy.

On 17 December, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 2021, the Colectivo Intercultural Transgrediendo and I were all awarded a Certificate of Recognition by NYC’s Mayor Bill De Blasio for making CAER, which was recognised as having ‘amplified the rich and diverse experiences of trans Latina women throughout the five boroughs and beyond’, for ‘strengthening our thriving Latin American and LGBTQ community’ and for ‘inspiring all New Yorkers in your efforts to create a brighter, fairer and more inclusive city’.

These are some very positive reviews of the film, highlighting its collaborative methodology and ethos:

The short article Liaam Winslet and Nick Mai wrote on the co-creative process that led to the making of our film CAER is now out as part of Special Issue No. 19 (2022): Special Issue – Migration, Sexuality, and Gender Identity guest edited by Svati Shah!

Mai, N., & Winslet, L. (2022). CAER: Co-creating a Collaborative Documentary about the Lives and Rights of Trans Latinx People Working in the Sex Industry in Queens, NYC. Anti-Trafficking Review, (19), 130–133.

CAER: Co-creating a Collaborative Documentary about the Lives and Rights of Trans Latinx People Working in the Sex Industry in Queens, NYC
This short article describes the co-creative production process of the film CAER—a collaboration between a researcher/film director and the Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo: a collective of migrant Latinx trans people in Queens, New York. It shows how the filmmaking process was guided by the concerns of the community, whose members co-wrote the script and took an active part in editing the raw material. The collaboration was born out of the shared belief that communities impacted by policies need to own the terms of their representation.
La traducción del artículo completo en español está disponible aquí: CAER ATR ES


Plan B is the second documentary that was produced in the context of SEXHUM through the collaboration between Nicola Mai and the Roses d’Acier sex worker rights association of Chinese cis women in Paris, France. 

The method of the film, ethnofiction, is based on the use of fictional methods to include stigmatised populations in the collaborative production of their own representations.

Plan B presents the intersecting stories of two Chinese women, Jing and Duoduo, who decided to emigrate to France in order to help their children and families and also to realize their social mobility projects. It shows the passage of the two protagonists from the difficulties of the early years when they worked in the streets to the following period, during which they fulfill their financial and social obligations to their families and can finally afford to enjoy their lives.

Plan B also shows the two protagonists navigating the difficult context created by the discussion (in 2014/15) and approval (in 2016) of the abolitionist Law against the “prostitutional system”, which exacerbated the vulnerability of migrant sex workers to violence, precariousness and poverty.

The film was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic in France and tells the stories of Jing and Duoduo through online discussions of the script by the members of Roses d’Acier who wrote it and original illustrations of its main scenes.