Political Film Review #552

Among many films on human trafficking, the scariest by far is Trafficked, directed by Will Wallace. The film, which only claims to be inspired by true events, is based on the book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara. The focus is on three young girls—Amba (played by Alpa Banker) from India, Mali (Jessica Obilom) from Nigeria, and Sara (Kelly Washington) from Northern California. Sara, the most desperate, was a teenage runaway, kept in foster care with many other girls including her younger sister, but at age 18 the law requires that she must leave to live on her own, whereupon Diane (Ashley Judd) makes promises about her future. Thus, the film begins at a time when they were happy. Then they are tricked, including by Diane, into going with those who transport them to an intermediate point, and finally to a sex slave compound near Reynosa, a town in México across the border from McAllen, Texas (though obviously not made there). Each step of the way, they are treated like cattle, but being held prisoner at the end of the trafficking is the most brutal, particularly those who object and are physically harmed. What is most revealing is that customers come mainly from the United States, including law enforcement personnel and politicians.

The manager of the brothel, Simon (Sean Patrick Flanery), cannot afford payments for the girls from the cartel that has managed the trafficking, so he plans to fight against them one night, leaving someone in charge whom Sara feeds a sleeping pill overdose, thereby creating conditions for the three to escape, perhaps the most perilous part of the film, since that means swimming across the Río Grande, running to get on a train, and buying a bus ticket out of McAllen in an interval of time long enough for the brothel manager to track them down. The present review will be silent on how that escape works out, not spoiling the climax and anti-climax. Titles at the end indicate that sex trafficking, involving about 10 millions, is more lucrative than Intel, Microsoft, Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined—$100 billion per year. But they may be underestimates according to many sources.  Despite one problem in the plot—that the three do not liberate all the rest—the Political Film Society have nominated Trafficked as best film on human rights of 2017. MH