Raw, confronting emotionally charged – these are the words that spring to mind in relation to Tess. What may not be immediately apparent is that this story of a physically, emotionally and psychologically damaged sex worker is also ultimately about self-affirmation and empowerment. The central character, Tess, will live with you long after the final credits roll; she’s tough as nails, but also caring beyond belief. The film challenges the viewer to confront issues of gender violence, incest and abuse head on, while exploring the value of community in a racially diverse South Africa. Tess expects much of its audience, but for those who persevere, the overarching take away is surprisingly hopeful.