19 September 2007 United Nations Headquarters in New York will roll out the red carpet tonight as it hosts the world premiere of a new feature film spotlighting the horrors of human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar global industry whose primary victims are women and girls.
Tonight’s premiere of Trade is being co-hosted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), film distribution company Roadside Attractions and international human rights organization Equality Now.
Based on “The Girls Next Door,” a 2004 New York Times Magazine article by Peter Landesman, the film features Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Kline as a police officer in Texas who becomes involved with a young Mexican boy who is looking for his 12-year-old sister who has been abducted.
The film is “gut-wrenching and alarming and disturbing,” Mr. Kline told reporters at a press conference in New York today.
“The film depicts the inner workings, shines a light on the methodology of how these trafficking networks work, not only behind the scenes, but what actually happens in plain sight,” he said.
Trade, which also tells the story of a young Polish girl who is brought to the United States under false pretences and raped, drugged and put to work, attempts to “put a human face on the problem.”
He added that while the film “doesn’t have blockbuster written all over it,” he hoped it will succeed in raising awareness of the problem.
According to UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, human trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year business with profits second only to drugs and arms. Calling it the “modern day version of slavery,” Mr. Costa said the problem is everywhere and affects about 1 million people a year.
The lead UN agency fighting all forms of human trafficking, UNODC works with governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to combat the scourge by raising public awareness, engaging in prevention activities and enhancing the skills of legal professionals and policymakers.
Six months ago, UNODC launched UN.GIFT (Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) to raise awareness of the problem and to assist countries in implementing international agreements such as the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
Mr. Costa said there was no better way of building public awareness than using the most popular media worldwide, that of television and movies.
Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director of Equality Now, said art has always been an integral part of her group’s advocacy strategy. “Trade with its remarkably honest portrayal of the sheer horror and brutality faced by millions of trafficked women and girls embodies the power of art to raise awareness and inspire individuals to take action and initiate change.”