Nigrin: Your very important documentary The Twelve Thousand narrates the true story of a young woman who survived the brutal sex-trafficking trade that exists on the border between Nepal and India. Please tell us more about how you got involved in making this film and how it came about?
Davis: Randy Watson (Producer) has spent the last 10 years volunteering both domestic and international human rights and advocacy groups. In 2015, a severe earthquake struck Kathmandu, Nepal killing 9000 people and damaging over 600,000 structures. Randy and a group of tradespeople travelled to Nepal to aid in the restoration effort. The organization that hosted his team was a safe home for children who had been trafficked. Randy was greatly moved by how the home was run, how nationals were empowered to lead, and the level of restoration evident in the children. He continued to build a rapport with the organization and eventually joined their leadership team. 5 years later, the organization is facing their biggest challenge yet. Their school, safehomes, training and restoration buildings are all rented, and rent is increasing. The burden of raising financial support to buy land and build their own facilities weighed on Randy. At this time, a young girl (Sona) asked if she could share her story to use as a prevention tool to prevent other children from being trafficked and help fund the construction of new safe homes.
Randy came back to Canada and pitched the idea of filming Sona’s story to raise financial support to me. I was moved by Randy’s conviction and heart for the vulnerable. He represented the type of man I wanted to become. I fully committed to the project, visited Nepal immediately, wrote a screenplay, assembled a production team of 8 Canadians and travelled to Nepal with Randy to shoot the film in March, 2019. 100 people within the organization, all affected by human trafficking, volunteered as cast and/or crew to help with the production of the film, The Twelve Thousand.
Nigrin: How long did it take you to make this film?
Davis/Watson: We started pre-production of the film in September, 2018. We travelled to Nepal to meet and talk with Sona, a rescued girl who volunteered to tell her story for the film. Sona, along with her translator sat with us for 6 straight hours inside a small room inside a safe home. Sona emotionally recounted the horror of her last three years trapped inside an Indian brothel. We were disgusted with the realization of how children like her are treated and extremely motivated to advocate for Sona through the film. The script was written in 6 hours. Planning, scheduling and booking production details took 3 months. Production of the film was completed over 9 days on location in Kathmandu, Nepal. The cast and crew worked from 6am-midnight every day, averaging 3 locations per day. A large portion of the post production was done over a week inside a secluded cabin in BC, Canada and completed in June 2019 in Vancouver.
Nigrin: Where did you get the funding for it?
Davis/Watson: Funding for the Production and Post Production of the project was a combination of contributions from 4 private donors, discounted rates from the Canadian team and volunteer efforts from the Nepalese team. Currently, we are seeking partners for the promotion and distribution of the film to help reach their goal of 5 million dollars towards the construction of new safe homes for children rescued from sex-slavery in Nepal.
Hazavei: What was it like filming on location in Kathmandu?
Davis/Watson: The people in Kathmandu are beautiful, kind and accepting. We were able to get permission and permits to shoot in our desired locations, on the ground and the air. However, the city is densely populated. The streets are extremely dusty, full of motorbikes and vehicles driving without any regard to any rules. Limited regulations and communications made it difficult to be agile and get things done quickly. Despite the difficulties, our entire production was completed within 9 days due to the work and efforts of our entire team.
The variety of food was unbelievable and tasty. The weather was optimal early summer temperatures without rain.It was an honour to work there.
Hazavei: What sort of issues did you run into, logistically or with equipment, etc.?
Davis/Watson: Honestly, we were expecting many delays and difficulties throughout the production with equipment, power and people. And yes, there were landslides, random demolitions on roadways, and smoke from the cultural practice of burning the dead. However, there was a sense of momentum and mission over the production where we didn’t really experience any setbacks at all. This is due to the amazingly detailed scouting and planning of our Producers.
Hazavei: What do you hope viewers take away from your film?
Davis/Watson: The obvious answer is that people leave with an understanding that trafficking is an organized industry, an illegal manufacturing process where the products sold are real children. But more than anything, we want people to internalize this problem. We want people to stand against any situation in their own country, community or in the personal lives where people are treated as products and not people. We believe this type of thinking would result in a culture shift and lesson the demand for sex slaves around the world. Lastly, we hope people join us in becoming 1 of 12,000 people supporting the 12,000 kids sold into sex slavery every year. If 12,000 people donate $35/month for 1 year, we will raise 5M towards the construction of new safe homes for these rescued children you see in the film.
Nigrin: Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you would like to relay to our readers?
Davis/Watson: Shooting the final scene of the film will remain in our hearts forever. In the final scene, Sona enters an alternate reality where she starts speaking English instead of Nepalese. The reason this scene is so powerful to us is because we speak English. We can hear the plea in her voice to be treated as a normal kid and not a toy used for sex. This was an intensely personal story for many of our cast and crew, we felt the entire process was a privilege to be trusted with their vulnerability. To see each person engage so wholeheartedly in the process was truly a gift for our production team.
Still from Diwali
The Twelve Thousand will be screening with two other documentaries. Here is more info on this screening:
Diwali – Etienne Labbouz (Highland Park, New Jersey) Diwali is a hybrid work mixing documentary film and poetry. This film-poem was shot in South India during the period of Diwali, the famous festival of lights. While commenting specifically on the position of women in Indian society, the film also marvels at the beauty of a celebration of light and spiritual renewal. 2019; 10 min. Q+A Session with Director Etienne Labbouz!
L'Eau Est La Vie (Water is Life): From Standing Rock to the Swamp – Sam Vinal (Los Angeles, California) This searing and timely documentary, set in the swamplands of Louisiana, focusses on a group of fierce Indigenous women who are fighting to preserve their way of life. They have set up the L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) camp, in active resistance against a planned oil pipeline. They are determined to risk everything to protect their environment from the predatory fossil fuel companies that threaten the health and well-being of their people. 2019; 25 min.
The Twelve Thousand – Eric Davis and Randy Watson (Langley, British Colombia, Canada) The Twelve Thousand narrates the true story of a young woman who survived the brutal sex-trafficking trade that exists on the border between Nepal and India. Filmed on location in Kathmandu without any professional actors, this short film gives a voice to the 12,000 Nepalese children who are trafficked every year and invites the viewer to be part of the solution. In Nepali, subtitled. 2019; 30 min. Q+A Session with Director Eric Davis and Producer Randy Watson!
Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures Department!
Friday, February 7, 2020 at 7:00 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey
$14= Advance; $12=General; $10=Students+Seniors
Information: (848) 932-8482; www.njfilmfest.com
Still from L'Eau Est La Vie (Water is Life): From Standing Rock to the Swamp