New films speak for the 'Innocents,' victims of human trafficking

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

A scene from the film "Trade of Innocents."

Monterey Media Inc.

“Trade of Innocents” — one of three films about human trafficking that premieres this week — ends with two stark epilogues.

“UNICEF estimates that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked each year."

“Human trafficking is now the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.”

From Hollywood to the White House and beyond, moviemakers, journalists and President Obama are pointing a spotlight on the dark reality of human trafficking, increasing awareness and working on solutions to a problem with as many as 27 million victims.

The new dramatized movie “Trade of Innocents” begins in the back room of a small restaurant in Cambodia, where an Asian pimp named Duke is selling girls. Rated PG-13 "for disturbing thematic material involving sex trafficking of children, and some violence," the movie follows a couple who lost their own daughter as they try to rescue other young girls sold into the slave trade.

"Trade of Innocents" is in limited release; it opens in New York on Oct. 5 and moves into five other cities before the end of the month. (A Utah release date hasn't been announced.) Meanwhile, also opening on Friday but in wide release, "Taken 2" is the sequel to a movie in which a retired CIA agent saves his daughter after she is kidnapped to be sold into prostitution. Now elements of the old group are bent on revenge and take his wife.

The third film with aims on undercutting human trafficking launched earlier in the week. “Half the Sky” — a documentary based on the best-selling book of the same name by the Pulitzer Prize-winning, husband-and-wife team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn — debuted Monday on PBS. The documentary and book form the core of the Half the Sky Movement, which describes itself as “cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide.”

Although one is an independent feature film and the other a documentary, “Trade of Innocents” and “Half the Sky” both address the same cause-and-effect connection between education and advocacy: Introducing viewers to human trafficking — President Obama described it as "barbaric," "debasement" and "modern slavery" last week at the Clinton Global Initiative summit — is a necessary first step toward advocacy and solutions.

Pernicious and prevalent

For the first time, America’s annual trafficking report includes details about trafficking in the United States. Released in June, the report estimates that as many as 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. Reliable statistics concerning the global scope of human trafficking are difficult to generate because of the different ways individual nations define the crime. Regardless of the definitions, the prevalence of human and sex trafficking is undeniable.

Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking advocacy organization, defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.”

The United Nations deems human trafficking “a crime against humanity” that affects “every country in the world … whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement subdivides human trafficking into two categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Also, ICE fastidiously distinguishes human trafficking (“centers on exploitation”) from human smuggling (“centers on transportation”).

“Human trafficking is a worldwide problem,” ICE public affairs officer Ernestine Fobbs told the Deseret News. “A number of the people that we work with are from other countries, and they are afraid to protest or say anything about it (because) the person holding them in a trafficking situation usually has threatened them … or their family back home.”

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