Fresh from its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is veteran documentarian Kim Longinotto’s moving portrait of Brenda Myers-Powell and her Dreamcatcher Foundation, which supports women escaping from prostitution. Longinotto follows Myers-Powell on her nightly rounds in Chicago, offering help and hope to women — some of whom are still only girls — who are ready to get off the streets, and condoms and hugs for those who aren’t. There is no judgment in the film just as there is none in Myers-Powell’s approach, because she knows exactly what these women are suffering through: she was once there herself. This is one of the most extraordinarily personal stories about prostitution that I have ever seen, one that, with a gentle but undeniable humanist force, allows us to understand why a woman who hates the work might not be prepared to walk away from it even when offered assistance (which might seem like a contradiction). Myers-Powell’s conversations with working prostitutes and her counseling of at-risk high-school girls peel away the multiple nefarious layers of the cycles of violence and dehumanization that these women have been subjected to; some of the students tell of sexual abuse and rape from very young ages that was often denied, ignored, or even enabled by their mothers. This is a world — a microcosm for the culture at large — that hates women, that denies women’s humanity, and does such a good job of it that even women have internalized their lack of self-worth… and that’s the hurdle to be overcome. This is essential viewing for its depiction of one of the worst sorts of ways in which the world grinds girls and women down… and how, with love and attention, it can be endured and survived.