Revealing the seedy underground of sex trafficking in the US, filmmakers Kristin Ross Lauterbach and Christina Lee Storm presented a segment from their film “Flesh” at the McNish gallery in Oxnard College on Mar. 12.
As part of the art event “Harmony Reverberates Optimism”, focusing on female artists’ works striving toward social justice, “Flesh” takes steps toward dealing with a subject affecting many women in the US.
“One of the first steps is just awareness,” said Lauterbach. “That’s one of our goals with this film, to put it on your radar.”
“Flesh” is a 70 minute feature revealing the presence of sex trafficking in the US through interviews with those who are involved with the industry. Interviews consist of former and present sex slaves, prostitutes, pimps, members of non-profit organizations and abolitionists, providing each side to the issue. Along with the formal interviews, the filmmakers went out onto the streets to provide more reality to the subject and a naturalistic feel to the interviews. Getting the interviews on the streets was not always safe, according to Storm.
“We definitely were followed, tracked,” said Storm. “We changed cars three times. — While [Lauterbach] is filming, I’m looking forward, to the sides, to the back if a car comes up.”
Lauterbach came up with the idea for “Flesh” after reading an article about sex trafficking on an airplane to Thailand and started to research the issue more thoroughly when she returned to the US. During her research, Lauterbach questioned why the US did not include themselves in surveys about human trafficking among other countries in the world. At the same time, Storm was in India to see firsthand human trafficking in the area. Storm visited a safe house in Mumbai where minors pulled from brothels have been relocated and saw the trauma caused by sex trafficking. After returning to the US, Storm met Lauterbach and began development of “Flesh”.
A 12 minute segment of the film was shown at the McNish Gallery and was followed by a Q&A session with Lauterbach and Storm. The Q&A session dealt with topics like others involved with the project, the filmmakers’ background, organizations involved and the project’s future. Event curator Ronald Lopez also answered questions like why he had chosen “Flesh” for this event.
“When you watch this 12 minute video, it gives [Flesh] a certain humanity,” said Lopez. “And for me, that’s what this whole show is about. It’s the humanity that’s involved.”
“Flesh” will be considered for the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival, giving its “push to action” goal a better chance to be heard. The organizations that helped with “Flesh”, like After Hours and Children of the Night, will also be promoted through the film and are open to new volunteers.
Though “Flesh” presents the evils of sex trafficking, Lauterbach shared with the crowd that she learned that the morality of people is not always clear. With the people she met, like pimps, trafficking can be all they know how to do and what they were taught. However, getting to know their personalities as a contrast to what they were involved with created a grey area in morality.
“Not everyone is wholly evil or wholly good,” said Lauterbach. “You want to put pimps and traffickers on the spectrum of wholly evil and the girls on the spectrum of wholly good, but it isn’t that clear cut.”
For more information on the film, visit the official website flesh.squarespace.com. For more information on the “Harmony Reverberates Optimism” event, visit http://www.adenistanbul.net/harm_rev_opt.htm.
Originally published on March 23, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com