- (Photo: "Trade of Innocents" Facebook page)
"Trade of Innocents," a film about child victims of human trafficking, was previewed to rave reviews at Yale Law School a few weeks ago and The Christian Post recently had the opportunity to speak with one of the film's producers about the movie, about why telling the story of human trafficking through the lens of a feature film is powerful, as well as how the subject matter is important for both Christian and mainstream audiences.
Jim Schmidt, a Los Angeles-based film producer and award-winning actor who has been in films such as Billy Graham's "The Climb," and the 1980s film "Super Christian," signed on to co-produce "Trade of Innocents" after global activists Bill and Laurie Bolthouse of Breckenridge, Colo., approached him.
The Bolthouse's have been involved in global health and justice issues for years and became inspired to make a feature film about child trafficking after their paths converged with young victims of the human trade and those who work as investigators and rescuers to free them.
Although several feature films addressing the subject of human trafficking have come out in recent years, such as the 2008 film "Taken" starring Liam Neeson, "Trade of Innocents" takes a truly unique approach to the topic as it gives the audience a comprehensive view of the crime, according to Schmidt.
The Christian filmmaker explained that "Trade of Innocents" depicts the various aspects of child trafficking from "the mother that sacrifices one child to the sex trade in order to provide financially for the rest of the family; to the cop who turns a blind eye; to the brothel owner who uses a perverted twisted sense of family to control his girls; to finally, the main characters who show that the people who do human trafficking investigations and rescues have real problems and challenges in their own lives."
"Trade of Innocents" is set in a brothel in Cambodia and stars Hollywood actors Dermot Mulroney ("My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Young Guns") and Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite" and "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion"). Beyond being an actress, Sorvino has been at the forefront in the fight against human trafficking serving as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In the plot, Mulroney plays a human trafficking investigator who comes to Cambodia with his wife, portrayed by Sorvino. The couple, struggling from the grief of losing their own daughter years back, quickly find their lives intertwined with the young Cambodian girls who are being used as sex slaves.
Although the film seeks to educate its audience on the issue of child trafficking, the producers also worked hard to ensure that "Trade of Innocents" was entertaining as well.
"Films can entertain as well as educate. Movies can reveal a lot about the issue and tell a story at the same time so that's why we chose to do this film together," Schmidt said.
Despite the content of the film being a subject matter that Schmidt describes as "close to the heart of God," the producers of "Trade of Innocents" wanted the movie to be able to not only entertain and touch the hearts of Christians, but also a wider audience.
"Our producers are all believers and when we first started this project we said 'it would be the easiest thing in the world for us as followers of Christ to make a film that preaches to the choir. We made a decision early on not to do that as this is an important issue for the whole world and a mainstream audience."
"I always say 'this is not a Christian film, per say, but the subject matter is close to the heart of God,'" the producer shared.
Just two weeks ago, the film was previewed to an audience of academics, policy makers, and law enforcement officials at a symposium titled "Trade of Innocents: A Global Perspective on Human Trafficking" at Yale Law School. Schmidt told CP that the response to the film and symposium were "incredible."
"People were really moved. I'd say the event overall was actually historic," he said.
The overwhelming positive reception to the film from academics, policy makers, and various faith communities, including Jewish and Muslim, and the experience of producing a film with such heavy ramifications for the global community has left the producer with a deep sense of humility and gratitude.
"I have lots of films that are in development right now and I'll be making lots more films, but I can't really imagine making a more important film than this one," Schmidt said. "It really is an honor to take this story out and to be a part of this fight through a feature film."
"Trade of Innocents" is scheduled to make its theatrical debut this fall.