The New Abolitionists Review
The New Abolitionists directed by Christina Zorich documents the incredible escapades of four Christian ministries in Southeast Asia who tirelessly work to abolish a form of modern-day slavery: human sex trafficking. While working as discreetly as possible to avoid constraint from threatening local authorities, these groups return the life that was robbed from the victims of sex trade back to them. Teams would be active in “red light” areas that are teeming with nightclubs where the rate of human trafficking is extremely high. The rescued women, who range from underaged teens to mothers, find a new start with these rescue teams and a safe haven for emotional and spiritual healing. The uphill battle to rescue the women from the dangerous life of prostitution shows rewarding as they enter a new supportive and loving environment, often for the first time in their lives.
The pervasiveness of human sex trafficking bleeds worldwide into every single city, yet as the film exposes, in Asia alone there are an incredible 11 million victims. The film starts in Cambodia, where in 2008, the country released laws that define prostitution in ways that the human trafficking industry can circumvent. Because of this lack of distinction, the booming “entertainment” industry employs underage girls to provide services despite it being borderline illegal. Because of this, the non-government organizations, or NGO, rescue teams face a grand legal challenge with rescuing the girls. The film also spotlights Thailand, where trafficked women from around the world end up from being tricked into forced prostitution.
The film exposes a vital aspect to fighting the gigantic issue of sex-trafficking: taking action. The volunteers that take a part of these daring rescue missions are regular people who have a heart to stop the cycles of forced servitude and prostitution. For many victims, these groups are their last hope for freedom, a quality education, and a job outside of prostitution. Often, NGO rescue teams have members pose as tourists looking to buy trafficking services in order to free the girls. Anti-trafficking teams, having caught the attention of local authorities, face threats for their work to shut down human trafficking, yet their unrelenting efforts have resulted in the physical, emotional, and spiritual restoration of many girls and women.
This film intimately shows the restoration of joy in these women who have experienced incredible suffering. Commonly 12-17 years of age, the girls may be held in captivity for a month before the cycle of captivity begins again. As Sarah, an NGO assistant to the team leader, emphasized, the aim is to fill the brokenness of what they’ve experienced with the love of the teams. Seeing the restoration of joy in girls like Esther, a young girl who was the victim of prostitution and severe abuse, reinforces the sentiment of the NGO groups to show the women a love and compassion that had been absent in their lives. This film’s exhibition of how the NGO teams build loving and nurturing relationships with the women is deeply moving. The volunteers view the women like daughters and sisters, embracing them like their own family.
The rescued women who are taken in have physical needs provided for and learn how to improve their social skills. Some of the girls can’t read or write because of the high illiteracy rate, so the ministries help the girls overcome those hurdles in the hope they can be hired in a safer job. On top of this, they are trained in crafts like hairdressing, sewing, jewelry and card-making. Unlike in forced prostitution, the women can support their families on their own terms in these NGO camps.
The programs talk about trauma to work through it and help the women forgive to find emotional freedom. There’s also a self-reflective aspect of forgiveness that’s explored The New Abolitionists. As one of the team leaders put it, the women “keep the poison” when they don’t forgive. This untying of resentment enables the deeper emotional and spiritual restoration the women need. The womens’ ability to forgive is both moving and surprising as many these former captives were runaways from horrific abuse. Victims were also exposed to drugs for higher efficiency in working and were deceptively tricked into the sex trade. However, this film highlights the introspective side of unforgiveness that delays the healing of trauma. With the support of the NGO volunteers, these wounds can be slowly mended.
The topic of trauma is a pressing one in this film, as not only the victims of sex trafficking have it, but a significant part of the country’s population. The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which came into power from 1975 to 1979, turned the country into a detention center and killed 2 million ordinary Cambodians. While the regime suppressed the Cambodian people, they got rid of all the government infrastructures including marketplaces, schools, roads, hospitals, residences, and money circulation. This was dubbed “Year Zero”: the country’s holocaust. For many, the trauma from the atrocities of this period have not been dealt with. The healing done by these ministries can trickle down to the many Cambodians who can still need mental liberation.
Most importantly, The New Abolitionists seeks for people to act against the cycle of human trafficking around the world. The fight is not only for public awareness, but for investigative authorities to enact change through penalties instead being complacent. The sentiment of not being complacent extends to the public as well. This film stresses the fact that everyone has a role in causing irreversible damage to the practice of human trafficking, hopefully to the point where it never recovers.
Here is more info on the The New Abolitionists screening:
The New Abolitionists – Christina Zorich (Los Angeles, California)
I have been on an Odyssean journey since I first became aware of the existence of human sex trafficking in 2012. The New Abolitionists came into being, slowly. I studied, investigated, and learned from activist missionaries who were giving everything to see an end. With this film, I set out to not only expose the causations of trafficking but to reveal practical solutions. My hope is that following these brave abolitionists and their organizations will inspire others to join the fight in whatever way they can—small or large. 2020; 99 min.
Friday, February 19, 2021 - $12=General
Film will be available on VOD (Video On Demand) for 24 hours on its showdate. To buy tickets for this screening go here:
(848) 932-8482; www.njfilmfest.com