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

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

In last week's speech, President Obama called human trafficking "modern slavery." "Now, I do not use that word, 'slavery,' lightly," he said. "It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history. But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality."

Activist actress

“Trade of Innocents” stars Dermot Mulroney and Mira Sorvino. They play Alex and Claire Becker, Americans living in Cambodia who are still coming to grips with the murder of their 7-year-old daughter several years before. An Army veteran, Mulroney’s character is applying his military skill-set to combat the sex trafficking of underage girls throughout Southeast Asia.

The presence of Academy Award winner Sorvino is especially noteworthy given her work as a U.N. goodwill ambassador to combat human trafficking, for which she received the U.N. Global Advocate of the Year Award in 2010.

“She’s really quite an expert on the topic of human trafficking,” said “Trade of Innocents” producer Jim Schmidt. “So for us it’s a double win to have Mira — both as an actress who was perfect for the role, but also as an advocate who is educated on the issues.”

Last month, Sorvino spoke about human trafficking at the Social Good Summit in New York.

“More is spent in a single month (in the U.S.) fighting the war on drugs than all monies ever expended domestically or internationally fighting slavery from its inception,” Sorvino declared. “Per month, we spend more on the drug war than we ever have trying to free slaves.”

Big backing

By declaring war on an enemy as reviled as human trafficking, “Trade of Innocents” gained some very powerful and influential allies.

In April, Yale Law School hosted the two-day "Trade of Innocents Human Trafficking Symposium.” The FBI co-sponsored the event, which included an advance screening of the film.

At the “Trade of Innocents” world premiere on Sept. 28, UN Office on Drugs and Crime executive director Yury Fedotov personally introduced the film.

“I hope this film will shock people,” Fedotov said. “What is on the screen is not fiction. It is fact — a harsh reality for millions of people across the world; a story of stolen innocence and robbed childhood.

“We cannot recover that innocence; we cannot return that childhood. But, we can strive with everything we possess to prevent it from happening to the next child, and the next, and the next.”

At the Clinton summit, President Obama praised those working for solutions, including some honored at the summit. "This includes men and women of faith," he said, "who, like the great abolitionists before them, are truly doing the Lord’s work — evangelicals, the Catholic Church, International Justice Mission and World Relief, even individual congregations, like Passion City Church in Atlanta, and so many young people of faith who’ve decided that their conscience compels them to act in the face of injustice. Groups like these are answering the Bible’s call — to 'seek justice' and 'rescue the oppressed.'"

Call to action

With such on-point passion emanating from Sorvino & Co., it’s no surprise that “Trade of Innocents” is equally interested in educating and inspiring.

“There’s something about taking a topic like this to a feature-film level that I think connects with people on more of an emotional level,” Schmidt told the Deseret News. “But we didn’t want to just move people emotionally; we actually wanted to empower them to act — to move them to action.”

Schmidt considers the “Trade of Innocents” sister site, Justice-Generation.com, to be an effective educational tool for people who want to join the fight against human trafficking. Similarly, HalfTheSkyMovement.org also includes its own take-action website.

Both websites share two qualities in particular: a clarion call for grass-roots advocacy against human trafficking, as well as a carefully screened list of charities that can be trusted to funnel aid to the survivors of human trafficking.

“Lend your voice to push for stronger legislation targeting sex trafficking and supporting victims,” Half the Sky’s website intones, “and learn more about the organizations working to end this terrible injustice.”

"Trade of Innocents" is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material involving sex trafficking of children, and some violence. "Half the Sky" is rated TV-MA. "Taken 2" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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