It is a film that has inspired people to act, to work and to raise awareness of the human rights tragedy of human and child trafficking and sex slavery. We are talking about the hard hitting film Sold. Based on Patricia McCormick’s book of the same name, the award winning film tells the unforgettable story of a girl who risks everything for freedom after being trafficked from her mountain village in Nepal to a prison brothel in India. Sold places the audience in her shoes to give voice to the millions of children who disappear every year. Directed by Jeffrey D Brown and Produced by Emma Thompson, Sold stars Gillian Anderson, David Arquette, Seema Biswas, Sushmita Mukerjee, Tillotama Shome, Parambrata Chatterjee, Priyanka Bose, Ankur Vikal and many others. The film had its premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and has gone on to affect audience at more than 25 films festivals. We first learned about the film when it had it European premiere at the London Indian Film Festival. Before the screening Stacey had fascinating and illuminating conversations both with Producer Jane Charles and Director Jeffery D Brown.
She recently caught up with director Jeffrey D Brown to get an update about Sold.
One of the most amazing things about Sold is that this is more than just a movie about trafficking, it has become a platform to make a change in the world. Brown agrees and added, “Yes that is exactly right. And to help and protect kids from being trafficked and if they were trafficked to find multiple ways that we can support them.”
Check out what they have planned for the theatrical release, what work they are doing for this cause and what they have planned for the future.
“We have seen as we have released and screened at film festivals, that not only are audiences profoundly moved but they are inspired to action. The film stays with people and haunts them for weeks. They can’t get the picture of our lead girl Niyar, who plays Lakshmi, out of their heads. We have heard so many people taking actions in all kinds of different ways. Changing their jobs seeing if they can sell products made by survivors, making donations to NGOs in India and Nepal and domestically. We want to with this release to inspire many, many more people to take action.”
The Indiegogo Campaign
Sold is set for a March 2016 release and they have started a very cool Indiegogo campaign (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sold-a-film-about-child-trafficking#/).
There will be many ways it will have a theatrical distribution that is why we are doing our Indiegogo campaign. We raised $50,000 in the first week and now our goal is to get to 100 – 150 thousand. We are really hoping to get to $100,000 or more because that will really help us spread the word much more. The theatrical release is only the first phase, what will happen next is a theatrical on-demand release. If we can get to 10-20 cities with the theatrical release that will create a tremendous amount of press, which will help us created a much deeper and wider on demand release. And with the on-demand release, the communities can host screenings and raise funds for the charities domestically and internationally.
There are some special perks offered for donations and many by star Gillian Anderson
She is a doodler and she has designed a shirt for the campaign that she will also sign. She had also offered a breakfast, which sold in a couple of days for $10,000. We now have another breakfast with her and the Grange Hotel has donated a 3-day stay in their 5 star hotel. We also have many amazing perks including seats to see Gillian Anderson on Broadway, win the soundtrack from the film and also see David Arquette as Sherlock Holmes on stage and so much more. (Find out more here)
I recently saw a quote by David Arquette, in which he said he feels this is the most important film he has ever made. How does it feel to have your actors support and even more be moved and be changed by this film?
You know I get goosebumps as you say that because it was our investors, our actors, our crew, basically everyone that went on this journey of making this film it was really profoundly eye-opening for everybody involved. I would say across the board our actors are super committed to doing whatever they can to help make change in India and Nepal. They really are incredible people.
They also hope to create an edited version to take to high schools
Because our film is based on a book that was written for teenagers it is kind of the entry point to modern slavery for many young people. One of the things we are going to do is edit a shorter version of the film cutting down to say somewhere between 40-50 minutes so it can be used in classrooms. When I show Sold to juniors and seniors they really are motivated to jump in with both feet and see what they can do. And with their social networks they really are a powerful generation. They are going to become the firewall once they see what is actually going on because this is affecting their peers.
Using Sold to heal, bring hope and raise awareness
“Myself, the producer Jane Charles and 12 of our investors, we all got very involved with the issue when we met the kids at the NGOs who had been trafficked. We were deeply touched by how many of them there were and how paltry the resources were that were available to them. We really want to support efforts to help the kids that have been trafficked.”
iRest – Integrative Restorative Yoga
Pretty much every film festival that we have showed in we brought in someone from a local organization to talk about sex trafficking in that city and in that country. When we showed the film at the Illuminate Film Festival Sold again was the opening film. We had a bakhti kirtan with a woman named Suzanne Sterling who is one of the founders of Off The Mat Into the World, which is a yoga activist group. They go and do projects out in the real world by using their community to mobilize people. Seane Corn and Hala Khouri along with Suzanne are the founders and they have actually gone to Calcutta to support NGOs on the ground there that have rescued sex trafficking survivors so they are very versed in this issue. They are also very versed in trauma and modalities that can heal people from PTSD. Hala is trained in somatic experiencing and iRest or Integrative Restorative yoga. iRest is actually a trauma formed version of nidra yoga so it comes from Kashmir Shivaism thousands of years ago. Richard Miller, who has studied Nidra yoga for 30 years, found a way to simplify this yoga to treat PTSD and it has been very effective to treat veterans. How it works is that you listen to a tape, it is sort of guided meditation. It actually rewires your brain and takes you out of the fight and flight modality that people with PTSD get stuck in. It helps you get in an expanded awareness were you car really become happy again. It sort of resets your compass.
At Illuminate we raised 15,000 dollars to to deliver iRest to survivors of sex trafficking in Nepal and then after that India. A woman named Petra Huber is now in Nepal working with iRest, she is going to be there about 2 years. She has started to teach iRest to survivors at Shakti Samuha. We are hoping that many of these survivors will then become the teachers to bring it to India. When we showed the film in Nepal last November, they were very enthusiastic and they all said they would go to India to teach this to Indian survivors and others who are there and they are now being trained.
What we love about iRest is that it can be taught quickly and people can be trained as facilitators rapidly so it can be delivered to lots of people fast. Also the origin is from India and bringing that back to the millions of survivors that have been rescued in India will hopefully be a very effective way of helping them heal.
So we are working on the iRest and are poised to get that established. iRest is raising more funds for that effort themselves and we are also going to use the film to raise more funds to continue our partnership with them.
Childreach International and Childreach Nepal
We are partnered with Childreach International and Childreach Nepal and they are going to take Sold into 40 United Kingdom colleges and schools. They have primed their student leaders with the film Sold, and they are ready to be deployed to show the film to their classmates in the Spring when Sold will be released. They hope to raise over a million pounds to rebuild classrooms. Childreach Nepal created a campaign called Taught Not Trafficked. See during the earthquake over 5,000 schools were destroyed, which is 52,000 classrooms and now 1.7 million children now no longer have schools to attend and as result trafficking has gone up, it has doubled. If you can keep girls and children in school until they are 16, the likelihood of trafficking drops considerably, it drops 80%. If you go to #taughtnottrafficked you can see more. They have found a way to build prefabricated temporary classrooms that can last for 15-20 years. The cost of each classroom is a little over 3,000 dollars. They are raising funds to rebuild schools. They want to build 100 schools with these temporary classrooms in the most trafficked areas in Nepal.
The United Way Worldwide, the global charity is partnering with us. They have United Way groups all over the world and we are hoping that we can have Sold widely shown in them so we can raise funds to help charities both domestically and internationally. Also the United Way has established a new Center on Human Trafficking & Slavery. Their effort now is with the Republican and Democratic candidates for Presidency – they want to pressure the candidates to publicly announce where they stand on the trafficking issue. And even more, to pressure them to raise the funds, which are dedicated to human trafficking. Right now we have 30 million dollars that the US allocates from the federal government to fight human trafficking both domestically and internationally but trafficking as an illegal crime by the International Labour organization is estimated to be a 150 billion dollar industry. This is both sex slavery and labor slavery. So they want the candidates, all the candidates, to commit to 3 billion to fight trafficking both domestically and across the world. When you look at the fact that there is over 30 million people in slavery today across the world this is a massive major human rights issue. The sad fact is that none of nations are addressing it in the way that it needs to be. There needs to be a commitment of much more funds. So that is their goal and hopefully Sold will be a part of making that happen.
We also have another very exciting project that is in the very early stages that we hope to develop soon. We want to work with an organization that is working to get the children of the prostitutes out of the brothels and out of the red light district before they are trafficked and to get them into a school. And we want to use Sold to raise money to help with this project. Getting the children of the sex workers out is not going to stop trafficking, someone else will be trafficked in their place, but if there is whole group of children and sex workers educated and empowered through college change will happen. But more on that later.
Bringing Sold to the communities to raise awareness and action
We have also started to reach out to interfaith organizations because we feel like the way Sold can make the biggest difference to go as it releases to bring communities to screenings. So the communities then can work together to create change and they can determine if that change is where they live or if it is India and Nepal. In this vein, we have partnered with Walk Free campaign, which has 8 million followers. We have also partnered with the Anti-trafficking group within Rotary International. They are very excited to be showing Sold to their many satellite offices all over the world.
We are distributing a mobilization packet that explains how people can be really effective both as individuals and even more effective in communities. This mobilization packet will be distributed to organizations, churches, Rotary clubs, United Way chapters and basically it will give them ideas of how to raise funds, how to vet organizations, whether they are domestic or foreign and contribute to our global support to those on the ground doing the best work.
What we are hoping to do with Sold and with United Way and ECPAT who we have also partnered with, to rally communities around the issue using our film and create more circles of change like stolenyouth.org , which is the charity started by Jane Charles and the investors in the film. When they got home from shooting the film they saw they had a problem in their own backyard and started StolenYouth.org in Seattle. With this charity they have raised over 2.6 million and started great work to make a change there. We would love to create 10 more circles of change in the US cities and we want to use the film to get the people involved.
Working to create vocational training and jobs
What we realized when we did research in India and Nepal, we went to 7 NGOs, is that these kids, they were mostly kids, that these kids and young women need healing and they need job training otherwise they are going to continue to be at the mercy of their own demons and fear having gone through this brutal situation. Also they won’t have any job opportunities if they are not taught any labor skills, which can really get them some gainful employment. One of the problems that we saw systemically at the NGOs was that the girls and the women were being taught to hand sew but they weren’t being taught machines or creating entire garments. They were doing very rudimentary things. Often the survivors are a 14-15 year old girl with a 2-year old child and so she is going to need not only to provide for herself but she is going to have to provide for her family as a single mother. These women really need to have well paid skilled jobs.
There are companies that are doing work for this already, but it is somewhat on a small scale. There is a group called 3strands global and there is another group called Pujammies. These companies are employing survivors to make bracelets; jewelry or pajamas out of old saris to keep them employed and gainfully employed and make a good living. 3 Strands Global has donated a bracelet to our indiegogo campaign.
We have contacted a group call NEST. They train women who are vulnerable or who have been abused. This is a fantastic group that trains women in vocational skills and livelihoods that can really support them. They are very interested in working with us. They haven’t worked with survivors of sex trafficking yet. They work with a lot of companies like Maiyet, which is a very high-end fashion line that is very interested too. I have talked with two other companies that have factories in Calcutta and several jewelers and a lot of fashion designers and there is a tremendous amount of interest of creating a website for work made by survivors of human trafficking. Plus creating a vocational training program that could be modular and could travel from NGO to NGO.
What he hopes the Indiegogo campaign, the release of Sold in the Spring will do and even more importantly what it will do for the efforts they are trying to do, to accomplish, to promote and to help with.
Well, I got to sleep very late every night and wake up very early thinking we have this film that has such a powerful affect on the audience how can we support it so we can make a difference in the world. It has taken eight years to make the film and myself and Jane will be dedicating the next year of our lives to making sure Sold has a real impact as is goes out into the world. We hope to rally communities, to spread awareness and to raise funds for these vulnerable kids.
This is a big job, but we are really hoping to bring healing and job possibilities to many survivors, to create schools to keep kids in schools so they don’t get trafficked and to heal and empower those who were trafficked to have lives of dignity and hope. And hopefully also have them become healers of others and leaders going forward.