Residents of Bristol are being challenged to confront the reality of human trafficking with a series of films exploring the issue.
They are shown by Unchosen, a project that uses film to challenge trafficking, and incorporates discussion with directors.
Unchosen maintains that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, a global problem affecting the quietest town and village.
But they add that the power of Understanding Trafficking, to be shown on Tuesday, focuses on the human detail of one particular route and region. The film reports that every month at least 500 girls are trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh, down the eastern corridor to India. Their fate is either forced labour or the international sex trade.
The film’s director, Ananya Chakraborti, said the girls’ plight prompted her to investigate both the human cost and the economics which underpin the trade.
“Some of these girls are sold to brothels,” said Chakraborti, “While some are forced into farm labour. The best looking ones are sent to the Middle East. The next best category goes to Mumbai.”
The key factor in trafficking, she said, is vulnerability. “The reasons could be poverty, broken families, domestic violence, desertion by husband, [being] victims of conflict situations or natural calamities. But all the girls who are trafficked – at least the ones I met – came from poor families, and many with compound problems.”
Chakraborti uses the Ramayana, a major Hindu epic, to explore the perils facing women and girls in the sub-continent.
In the epic, Laxman draws a magical line around his wife Sita to confine her and to protect her from the outside world. When Sita finally defies him and crosses the line, she falls victim to his enemy Ravana. Chakraborti identifies the reasons why women cross that domestic and filial threshold today to be lured into exploitation and slavery.
Unchosen report that the award-winning documentary puts the suffering and courage of individuals in a wider context of poverty and social deprivation.
Trish Davidson, founder of the Unchosen festival, is impressed. “This is rare footage to capture the plight of a trafficked victim and her actual trafficker,” she said, “A very brave and valuable documentary”. After the screening, viewers will have chance to discuss the film and the issues it raises with Ananya Chakraborti herself.