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The Hub Q & A: Bojana Maljević



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UN.GIFT works to increase knowledge and awareness of human trafficking bringing together all stakeholders to foster partnerships for joint action against trafficking. The UN.GIFT.HUB provides a platform for global dialogue and is now introducing The Hub Q & A Blog, a UN.GIFT knowledge product to voice the views and perspectives of those working on the frontlines, of this fight against human trafficking.


Bojana Maljević is a producer, as well as actress, in the Serbian production Sestre (Sisters). The film is about two sisters who fall victim to traffickers and their struggle throughout their enslavement, as well as the difficulties they encounter once they have escaped. Sestre is not for commercial use and serves as an educational tool to promote human trafficking awareness and highlight current issues involving human trafficking in Serbia.


Sophia Papadimos, UN.GIFT Secretariat, spoke to Ms. Bojana Maljević in Vienna during the recent UNODC Working Group on the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.


What prompted the idea for the film, Sestre?

When I saw a few documentary movies on human trafficking I immediately wanted to make a 13 episode serial, in which we would present all forms of human trafficking, not only sex trafficking. A feature, however, allows some phases of exploitation and recruitment to be presented to the viewers in a way that cannot be presented in documentary form. Also, in regard to victim protection, it is not always possible to present adequately the whole spectrum of their emotions. Furthermore, a feature program is usually the most seen and viewers, especially young people, are being educated through it in a different way. We have not managed to collect enough funds for the TV serial, so we made a feature film. This way we at least told some of the stories.


Were you in contact with actual victims of human trafficking?


Of course, I spoke to former victims of trafficking, women who have been through hell. The stories they told left a strong impression on me. I also read many testimonies, compiled by the NGOs active in combating human trafficking. And because I heard these life stories I remained committed to this project, no matter how long and hard it was. Sometimes it looked like we were doing an impossible mission.


Did you consult with police officers and prosecutors in order to provide the most accurate depiction of human trafficking court proceedings?


Yes, during the entire project we had 17 expert consultants from police, judiciary, and NGOs who have been active in countering trafficking. The scenario and the film was followed by the national anti-human trafficking coordinator and the state prosecutor. The film, Sisters, was one of the grantees of the media grants scheme of the EU, and this is why we also received useful advice from the BBC World Trust. The film was also supported by the IOM, and the IOM mission in Belgrade. From the beginning they followed the project and provided us with the useful information and advice. In the movie all the procedures, including the horrifying confrontation of the victims and traffickers in the court, are shown exactly as they are. Serbia must change some laws, because victims of trafficking, as well as some other victims, like victims of domestic violence for instance, are undergoing a secondary victimization in the courts. Of course, if they are lucky to reach the court at all.


How did Serbia receive the film?


In Serbia the film was received with exquisite attention. The public reacted with strong emotions and with disbelief that such a terrible type of organized crime is really happening in Serbia, as it is all around the world. The debates we organized after the film were attended by a great number of people, young people asked different questions, and were eager to receive as much information as possible. Media followed the project very well. The Government of the Republic of Serbia supported the project, so from the very beginning of the shooting up to the premiere we had the support of high government officials, who with their presence, besides the authors, additionally drew public attention to the issue of trafficking. None of the non-commercial movies had drawn such an attention in Serbia.


Since production of the film has completed, have you been involved with any other counter-trafficking activities?


After the production was finished we focused on the campaign in Serbia. We visited some 15 towns, showing the film, accompanied with discussion. Activities in the region and presentation of the film in other countries will start and I would be glad to go where ever they call me. Conference of the parties to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime in Vienna is the first place we have presented the movie outside of Serbia. For us this was a great honor and pleasure as the UN members who have seen the movie and were present when the Serbian national anti-human trafficking campaign expressed their satisfaction with the project. We should stress that Mexico was the first country in the world to implement the UNODC Blue Heart Campaign, and that Serbia was the first country in Europe who implemented its own national Blue Heart Campaign against Human Trafficking, through the promotion of the movie, "Sisters."


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