This movie tells the true story of one woman who was trafficked and how she survived. It shows how could happen to any girl and I will never look at the missing posters of young women in the same way again.
The film was awarded the audience prize for best feature at SXSW. The film has still not yet been sold for release.
Director Megan Griffiths answered some questions by email about the film.
Women and Hollywood: What attracted you to this story?
Megan Griffiths: When I first read the original script, I was blown away by the fact that it was a true story and that the woman on whom it was based, Chong Kim, had a part in translating the story to script form. It's a world I knew very little about beyond what is represented in the news, and to learn more about it from the perspective of a survivor was an amazing opportunity. But beyond the social issue, I was just completely drawn in by the complex relationship between the film's two central characters, Eden and Vaughan. It was such a complicated dynamic, and it felt like a good window through which to explore human nature.
WaH: Human trafficking is such a huge problem that people are now becoming more aware of and this story happened over 15 years ago. How do you take such an important story and get the message to while also trying to make a powerful and strong movie?
MG: It was important to us to make a film that was about people and their relationships with other people, rather than a film about an issue. Human trafficking is strong enough subject matter that even when it is used as a backdrop, it's power is there. The important thing was to keep the story focused on this one girl and her journey. If the audience can connect with Eden, they will hopefully feel the impact of trafficking in a more personal way, and maybe even feel motivated to take action.
WaH: Did you feel a deeper sense of responsibility since the story was based on a real life experience?
MG: Definitely. I really wanted to accurately convey the physical and emotional realities of someone in this situation. Since this isn't something I have any personal experience with, I was very fortunate that Chong was always available to provide perspective and consultation.
WaH: What did you learn most about yourself through this shoot?
MG: This film was new territory for me as a director, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to it in the first place. I gained a lot of confidence in what I can bring to a project and where my voice fits into other genres beyond the dramas I have made in the past.
WaH: What were the biggest challenges on making this film?
MG: I think the number one challenge was portraying this world as it is without dipping into exploitation or gratuitousness. It was something that was on my mind throughout every stage of the film. I believe we achieved a good balance by keeping many of the lurid details less explicit and more implied. Audiences now are so sophisticated--they've seen everything and their imaginations are vivid. When given most of the information, they are able to fill in the rest, and they will likely take it farther than you could ever depict on screen. Personally I'd rather have the audience watching the characters react to these situations instead of holding their hand over their eyes until the unpleasantness ends.
WaH: There have been several other films namely The Whistleblower that focus on sex trafficking that didn't get enough attention - how do you try and rise above all the noise and get people interested in seeing your film?
MG: We are living at a time where there are so many films available to watch through so many formats all the time. It's hard for any film to stand out in that din. All any filmmaker can do is focus on creating something that has depth and resonance, and then do whatever possible to get it seen by audiences and hope the word spreads.
WaH: What are your hopes for a release?
MG: Of course I would love to see this film in theaters across the country and around the world. The reactions we've been getting so far at SXSW tell me that the film is having a profound impact on people, and I'd love to see that impact reach much, much farther.
WaH: What advice do you have for other directors, particularly female directors.
MG: My advice to any filmmaker would be to figure out what it is that you bring to the table. What makes you different? What is your voice? I think that until a filmmaker knows that about him- or herself, the films they make will just be copies of other people's work. It's important for anyone who wants to make films for a living, but I think perhaps it has an even greater weight for female filmmakers since they represent a much smaller percentage of the population. Their voices are fewer so they must be even stronger.