An Eye Opening Documentary On Human Trafficking
Bruce Von Stiers
Over the last several years, I have seen statements and information from various Christian and civil rights organizations relating to human trafficking. One Christian rock band that I keep up on is deeply involved in mission work to aid in the stoppage of human trafficking. And there are many others who are trying to educate the world about what's going on with human trafficking and how to stop it.
One such education effort was done by actor and filmmaker Christina Zorich. A multi-year effort, Christina has made a documentary about four groups of Christian ministries that are acting as abolitionists in the world of sex trafficking. The title of the documentary is The New Abolitionists.
The film has a run time of just under an hour and forty minutes.
The Christian groups in the film are termed as NGO's or non-governmental organizations. That is, they work with various private and government agencies of the countries they are in, but have no official standing.
Although sex trafficking happens throughout the world, the people in the film concentrate their efforts in Southeast Asia. To emphasize the gravity of the situation, the film begins with this quote, “Asia is considered the most trafficked region of the world with an estimated 11 million slaves.”
I mentioned earlier that this film was done by Christina Zorich. She was producer, director, editor, cameraman and writer for the film. Christina has acted in films such as Charlie's War and Run It. The other writers for the film were Laura Spaeth and Andrea Valentine. The story consultant was Landon Satterfield, who also helped edit the film. Ciaron Michael Vejby was the other editor along with assistance from Hannah McDermott and Simon Daoudi. Christopher Barnes helped with the camera work and Stefan Zorich, Christina's brother, did post production work on the film. Andre Barros provided an original score for the film. Additional producers for the film ware Olympia Dukakis and Susannah Barnes. Christina is the daughter of Dukakis, who signed on as producer to help complete the project. The film is dedicated to Christina's father, Louis Zorich, who passed away in 2018.
Other quotes that open the film are from some of the heads of the organizations that are featured in the film. Daniel Vaupel of the Tamar Project states, “It is a global problem that is growing bigger and bigger.” Annie Dieselberg, leader of Night Light International says “it's not unusual for people to watch trafficking in films in a very sensational way. But those stories are just a minority of what's going on with sex trafficking.” And Andrea Aasen of Extreme Love Ministries notes that people don't think that trafficking is an issue so better education needs to happen for the Cambodian people.
The filming begins in Cambodia. One of the people in the effort tells of them identifying young girls from ages 12 to 17 who might be taken, kept confined and raped multiple times in a matter of days. There is a huge pressure for them to be sold as virgins.
As anti-trafficking organizations have come under great scrutiny lately and might suffer reprisals, one of them asked to remain anonymous throughout the film. As such, the faces of the members of the group are obscured on film. Also, some of the girls and young women who are the victims of sex trafficking have their faces obscured.
One of the team members who is on film quite a bit states that things won't be changed overnight, not even very soon, but “that doesn't mean we stop fighting or give up.” The viewer learns that there is a high illiteracy rate in these countries and that with better education and skills, these young women would have better opportunities in life.
There are a few scenes that show The Project, which is a girl's home. There, the girls get an education and life skills. One scene shows young girls learning how to use sewing machines.
One organizational setting, called Empower, teaches things like forgiveness. As the councilor explains, some of these girls have been abused, even raped, by brothers and fathers. So their self-worth is low and their level of forgiveness is low as well.
Extreme Love Ministries and their work with rescue, aftercare and prevention of sex trafficking is also highlighted in the film. The film crew was allowed to follow the people as they went about doing preventative work. One thing that Andrea Aasen points out is that people often don't register their children. So if the children go missing, there isn't a proper paper trail to assist in finding them.
It's noted that in one city, pedophiles act out in the open, often dining and having other “date” activities with young children. Some statistics are shared as well, such as that Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, has over 200 slum areas.
Many of the trafficking survivors are interviewed. As most don't speak English, there are subtitles for what is being said. One survivor tells of being trafficked by and aunt sold to another trafficker. As many of them know each other, a trafficker selling a sex slave to another trafficker is easily done. This same woman stated that she had over 20 customers that she had to have sex with in a half a day and then had to work that night as well.
The film intercuts some statistics and information between interview segments. One harrowing statistic is about how many people died in Cambodia as a result of the Khmer Rouge being in power during the late 1970's. That statistic was followed by a larger segment on what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot. The segment also covers what happened after the Khmer Rouge was removed from power.
One of the statistics listed finds that Bangkok has become a major hub for sex trafficking.
Annie Dieselberg is the director of Night Light International. She tells of finding that girls as young as 12 years old were dropping out of school and becoming mistresses of older men or drug runners. That when Annie moved to the area, there wasn't any organization to help women who wanted to get away from being trafficked. And that over time, there have been many women the organization has helped, giving them jobs with a fair wage and daycare centers, a bakery and other enterprises have been established to assist the trafficked people.
Moving women from country to country, destabilizing their sense of worth, taking their passports away, making them work the streets as prostitutes and even killing some of them to harvest their organs are just a few of the horrific things that the film covers.
Daniel Vaupel of the Tamar Project talks about the city that he minsters in. The entire city is based around prostitution. And that the F.B.I comes many times a year to educate organizations and law enforcement on ways to combat human trafficking. The organization provides shelter, meals and education to the various trafficked population, some of which are transgender. There is also a telling interview in which a transgender woman speaks of the hypocrisy of some Christians who speak of love but offer condemnation instead.
Even though I knew a bit about human trafficking, I didn't understand how widespread it is, especially in Southeast Asia. The film was definitely an eye opener. And it was more than a bit heartbreaking. Some of the stories that were shared showed just how horrible the lives of the trafficked people are and how rescuing them from that life can be daunting, if not nearly impossible. But that through faith and determination, people from the NGO's that are featured in the film are making progress towards helping trafficked victims obtain a better life.
The New Abolitionists has garnered several awards at film festivals. It is currently being shown at several film festivals around the world.
There is a web site for the film. It has information about the film, along with information human trafficking and about where to donate to the organizations featured in the film. That web site is http://thenewabolitionistsdoc.com/
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© 2021 Bruce E Von Stiers