Saturday, August 6, 2011

SOLD: The New Global Slave Trade, documentary


Last evening I saw Sold: The New Global Slave Trade, at the small screening room at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. First of all I was amazed that on a lovely Friday night in the middle of summer with very little advertisement, the space was totally full . True most of the audience were over 50; but it speaks to a population that cares about issues and is not afraid of a documentary that might be a little hard to watch.

In fact, I think it was the film maker, who was present, was a little timid and the film could have been stronger with ten more minutes in which some narrative facts would have explained the word "global" in the title. She concentrated on three heroic people combating the enslavement of children -- as small as two and a half. One was a woman in Togo where boys were "purchased" from their parents for a small payment. Parents were desperately poor and were told the kids would be well fed and sent to school -- a lie, of course. They were forced to pull loads of market goods on carts and slept in the open air with meager food. A woman in Hyderabad, India was rescuing girls from the sex trades, giving them education and teaching them skills to earn their own money. She spoke in a contained way of being driven by anger because had been abused as a child also. I can hardly wrap my mind around the perversity of raping a three year old child. The third was a lawyer in Pakistan who exposed the agents who bought small boys and sold them to sheiks in the UAE and other countries in that region where they were used as camel jockeys, tied to camels who were learning to race. The lawyer finally got a law passed in the UAE that outlawed the use of kids and now kid-size robots are used. Which is not to say the practice has entirely stopped. Much of his work is now helping the boys get an education and get a useful life -- although it was hinted that they are psychologically damaged and very susceptible to the extreme mullahs who preach jihad.

The film maker wanted to simply tell stories - and at the same time, win hearts of her audiences by showing beautiful, sad children. She also emphasized that the two women,in particular, were deeply religious and used religion to win the children's allegiance to a new life. The religious element in Pakistan is problematic. She said in Q&A that she had learned in years of journalism that telling a story is better than giving data; I wish she had learned a little more balance -- basic data would have been welcome, especially as she used "global" in her subtitle and mentioned that slavery exists many other places. I've read of its continuance in Algeria, of people enslaving domestic workers whose passage to the US they paid, and so on. Yesterday's Times had an article about "population agents" in rural China who take away infants and children from peasants without proper documents -- I suspect those children are either go adoption mills or put to work in factories if old enough to do simple tasks.

The film maker spoke of showing the film and speaking throughout South Korea, she is reaching for a global audience. I wish it were a better film. And I had a further thought about all such films: the subtitles were necessary for a few speakers but the screening room has a shallow rake so it's hard to see the bottom of the screen [and more so if a woman in front keeps moving about so she can see]. I should think a technology could be developed that would let the screening venue choose to put super-title [on the top of the screen] in such settings. It should be a menu choice just as the subtitle language is.

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

I have been reading about the slave trade for quite a number of years. I doubt if we are really aware of the whole extent of it. Also, it happens here in the U.S. too -- heard some speakers on this issue last year. Very sad stories.

Gathering data on such underground activities is similar to rape with women in the U.S. -- many of the real numbers are skeletons hidden in closets.

-- barbara

June Calender said...

Thanks, Barbara. Information does surface, as you write, I think every little bit helps, and awareness surely does some good which is part of why I write about subjects like this.