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Human Trafficking 101: What I've been Watching


Ashley Allen




I'm a big fan of movie marathons, spending an entire day or weekend watching films with a single theme: vampires, Quentin Tarantino, alien invasions, disasters, espionage and Sandra Bullock - the list could go on. However, when I had my last movie marathon, I found myself all alone, highlighting an issue that I fear many would rather not think about: human trafficking.


Apathy and lack of awareness about human trafficking can potentially mean a lost opportunity to help a victim. During a hearing before the United States Congress, American Airlines flight attendant, Sandra Fiorini, gave testimony of instances where she has witnessed human trafficking:


18 year old boy with newborn baby. No diaper bag, just one bottle and two diapers.

3 adults of same nationality with 5 children of all different nationalities and same age (4-5 yrs old).

Prostitution tents at Redwood, CA campground.  Men coming in and out.

Young girls 15-17yrs old coming over from Russia thinking they are going to be models and work on TV in NYC, even though they didn't speak any English. Moscow to Chicago direct flight. (Source: Innocents at Risk: Protecting Women and Children).



A lack of public awareness makes it easier for traffickers to recruit, transport and harbour victims. Public awareness and victim support networks play crucial roles in anti-trafficking measures.


Six films later, and several checks to make sure that my door was indeed locked, my view that human trafficking is a scourge on modern day society was reconfirmed.


The lineup proved thought provoking and at times, shocking, as was the case with "Maria Full of Grace" where a pregnant woman is trafficked as a drug mule; "Born into Brothels" added brightness and creativity to the difficult subject of children growing up in brothels; and "Amazing Grace" offered inspiration with its historical example that change is possible.


While "Taken," "Human Trafficking" and "Trade'' all landed in the victim who needs to be rescued category - if only the rescue rate was as high in real life as it is in the movies - the films did succeed in showing human trafficking as a complex and multi-layer subject with victims employing different coping strategies. "Taken" frightened me, "Human Trafficking" portrayed female empowerment, with Mira Sorvino helping another woman, and "Trade" brought in the US-Mexico border dynamic.


Next, on my list to see is "Redlight," a 2009 documentary about four young Cambodian victims and their journey of recovery. And this time I hope I won't be watching it alone. I encourage you to host your own human trafficking movie marathon with friends and family.


You can find more movies here.



Ashley Allen started her internship with UN.GIFT in September 2010. She is a student at the University of Stavanger in Norway and permanently resides in Norway. She is working on a Master's in Migration and Intercultural Relations and recently attended the 2010 International Summer School in Forced Migration at the University of Oxford, and conducted research on protracted refugee situations at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford.

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