Human Trafficking: What YOU Can Do to Stop it!

A human trafficking awareness poster from the ...
A human trafficking awareness poster from the Canadian Department of Justice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
People for sale in Canada? Not just Canada, people are for sale everywhere! Slavery in the form of human trafficking is one of the most profitable businesses in the world...and most despicable. For years, one of the major figures in American journalism, Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times columnist led a personal battle against modern day slavery. He recently wrote an opinion piece (see here) trying to, as he puts it, "giving voice to the voiceless". Victims don't dare to speak up. And if you don't speak up loudly, politicians don't listen.

To be a human rights activist is an UPHILL battle!

In that piece, he reports on how President Obama's landmark speech against modern slavery on 25 September (before the Clinton Global Initiative, see article below) was met by shrugs from "many of us in the news media". Why?  Because "it didn’t fit into the political narrative. It wasn’t controversial, so — yawn — it wasn’t really news." Kristof went on to explain how, despite the yawns, this issue is important: a major American legislation against human trafficking is at risk. While "Republicans have done superb work on the issue in the past", says Kristof, "now they're balking at straightforward re-authorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act - landmark legislation against human trafficking. What are they thinking?" he asks, sounding quite disgusted!

Fortunately Obama was re-elected. And now, we can hope that this piece of legislation will be renewed asap, just as it should!

Still, it's depressing that in our day and age, more than 150 years after slavery has been abolished, we have to argue the point. That there are people out there that don't think slavery is an important issue or that Kristof is plain boring about it (yes, I found criticism of his stance on Internet!).

How can anyone be in favor of human trafficking? Kristof confesses that he became  "passionate about human trafficking ever since [he]encountered a village in Cambodia 15 years ago where young girls were locked up, terrified, as their virginity was sold to the highest bidder." My view is that we can all support the fight against modern day slavery without ever having been to Cambodia or witnessed the terrible scenes Kristof reports.

The statistics prove that human trafficking is increasing exponentially, and according to at least one expert, Anthony Steen, Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, it's ten times worse today than it was 200 years ago in the heyday of slavery. Estimates about the number of victims vary:  from a minimum of 12 to a maximum of 100 million people but, given its illegal nature, the numbers are clearly unreliable. Also the very definition of slavery is complex as it touches on a series of crimes that range from sexual exploitation to forced organ transplants. Perhaps the worse aspect is the large percentage of women and children affected. One thing is certain: trafficking victims are on the increase. Just to give one small example that is nevertheless indicative of the overall trend: newly released British data show authorities identified 946 trafficking victims last year, an increase from 710 in 2010.

And it's a highly lucrative business: according to Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, trafficked children can earn more than $200,000 a year each for criminal gangs who train them to be pickpockets, beg and rob, or who force them into prostitution. And of course torture and sexual abuse are used to control them. Indeed, human traficking is predicted to outpace drug trafficking...

Now I have to confess a secret to you: I wasn't really aware of the extent of this on-going tragedy until I met Magda Olchawska, a hugely talented Polish film maker and author who's now working on an exciting film, ANNA AND MODERN DAY SLAVERY, a suspenseful and scary investigation of human trafficking, carried out by Anna, a lovely and generous young woman who's also a brilliant hacker.  Anna leaves a highly paid government job to set up an underground Organization that exposes the horrors of sex slavery.

Here's the poster for the film:

Here's the movie trailer:

Beautiful, haunting music, isn't it?

Well, perhaps you can't be like the brave Anna of the film, leave your job and fight a gang of human traffickers, but as citizens we should all try to be aware of the problem, make our politicians react and ensure that proper legislation is in place AND implemented! And as writers and film makers of course, any work aiming at exposing this scandal is more than welcome!

Curious about Magda Olchawska and how she came about to make this film (due to be released in 2013)? Here's an interview I made and that I have the pleasure to share with you:

Question: Tell us, Magda, what got you interested in the issue of human trafficking?

An amazing gal I e-met on Twitter: Lynn Robertson. I read one of Lynn’s poems and decided to do something about this horrifying situation. That's how the idea for Anna came about.

Did you write the film script or is it based on someone else's novel, novella or short story?

I wrote the script, which is based on imaginary situation and characters. Rather than focusing on the victims, the film is centered on the process of trafficking and how many people in high places are involved in this “business”.

Major difficulties in filming ? From what you told me, editing has turned out to be a problem!

Yes, the editor pulled out after realizing how much work that is. I’m going to edit the movie myself. I’m an editor at the end of the day...

How long does such a task take - what do you have 3 hours of film that you have to cut down to one hour and quarter or so?

Much more! We have over 12 hours of footage and the editing can take up to six months or even longer. It really depends.

It must be damn difficult to do. How do you proceed?

I have a clear idea of what I want and which scenes I’m going to use so hopefully this process isn’t going to be never ending! Filmmaking is difficult especially if you do it on a tight budget. But I love filmmaking so I really don’t mind looking after my baby J

Was the film entirely shot in Poland with Polish actors?

Yes, the film was entirely shot in Poland but we had an international cast and crew. The actors came from Poland, UK, Spain and Italy.

That's quite an international team! How did it work out in practice? In what language did you work?

It was a fantastic experience, everyone pitched in! We worked in multiple languages but the film was shot in English and just a little bit of Polish.

How long did it take you to shoot the film? A month?

Much less! 9 days. Our budget didn't allow us to shoot for longer than that.

Difficulties to obtain permission for street scenes and the like?

We didn’t get any permissions to shoot. We were trying to choose the locations wisely so we wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of getting permissions. They're both time consuming and expensive, we didn’t have money in our budget for that.

So you had financial difficulties. Wasn't the Indiegogo funding that you got enough?

The IndieGoGo funding was enough for the shooting. But not enough for the post-production. One of the producers has kindly agreed to pay for the editing equipment, which saved me loads of time from running another Indiegogo campaign.

However we will still need money for the sound editing and a little bit for the promotion and marketing.

If anyone of your readers would be interested in contribution & getting fantastic perks just follow the link

I certainly hope people respond! But let me ask you, how did you pick the main actress? She has a beautiful, sensitive face, does she have previous experience in film making or is this a first big role for her?

I met Paula Preston over a year ago in London and while writing the script I was thinking of her. So when she accepted the role I was thrilled.

This was the first time Paula has been a lead in the feature film. So it was also a big adventure for her.

What did Paula do before she worked for you?

Paula's professional career includes film, TV and theater roles as an actress, dancer and presenter. Recent work includes Frankenstein's Wedding (BBC4), Resonance (directed by Colin Teague), YMMBT (West End Theatre), Whose Play Is it Anyway (Edinburgh Festival), School Play (Criterion Theatre), Lady MacBeth (Arts Ed) and Curriculum Bites (Presenter BBC).

That's quite a career! And this is not your first film either, I know, and you've won awards.

No, I’ve made many shorts before. One of them, “The Man with the Spying Glass” has won the award of best short film at the 2011 Ballston Spa Film Festival. However, “Anna and Modern Day Slavery” is my first feature film.

Once the editing of the film is done, where are you showing it?

We will probably try to hit a few A List Film Festivals and see if we get accepted. We will also organize community screenings and of course the movie will be available free of charge on the Internet.

Free of charge? That's very generous of you and a boost to the cause! Any more movies or ideas you've got up your sleeve and that you plan on doing next year?

LOL, I always love your questions. Of course I'm always working on something else. I've already started working on the second Anna script and I'm really hoping I'll be able to shoot "Two People" next year

So keep your fingers crossed that I'll be able to pull the funding together...

Magda by the sea
Thanks, Magda, and I am keeping my fingers crossed and can't wait to see your film! And the second Anna film too...

Here's the official press release of Anna and Modern Day Slavery, produced by Mayan Films in association with Altaire Production and Publication:

Here you can download the official media kit and get all the information about the actors etc:
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