Friday, February 16, 2007

Upcoming films reveal stories of slavery and human trafficking

Upcoming films reveal stories of slavery and human trafficking
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With an estimated 28 million people worldwide living today as slaves, the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) hosted an eighth anniversary celebration Feb. 11 designed to bring awareness to two new films that highlight both the abolition of slavery and the state of slavery and human trafficking today.

The event in Brentwood also honored Oscar-award winning actress Mira Sorvino, star of the Lifetime Channel's Emmy-nominated miniseries, "Human Trafficking," with the CAST Global Vision Award for her efforts to raise awareness about the plight of the 50,000 men, women and children who are trafficked into the United States every year, according to CIA estimates --- one person every ten minutes.

Slavery, Sorvino told guests in her acceptance speech, has never gone away --- and U.S. citizens don't understand this. "We as a nation are turning a blind eye to the situation," she said. "Somehow the suffering of others goes right on beneath our noses and we either don't recognize its signs, or we have been so inured to the marginalization of the poor and their sometimes squalid existence at the outskirts of our communities that we simply ignore the existence of old-fashioned slavery and the utter denial of human rights in our midst."

Sex and factory slaves are told by their captors that in the United States dogs have more rights than they do, noted Sorvino. She challenged members of the entertainment industry to consider how the Animal Planet network reality series "Animal Precinct," which documents the real life adventures ofpolice investigating animal cruelty around the country, "has experienced several seasons worth of success.

"Certainly it has raised awareness to the inhumane treatment of animals; it relies on cases that are generally reported by neighbors for its weekly content of busting malevolent animal owners and the rescue of their miserable pets. What about the idea of a true crime show --- based on the real life reporting, rescue and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors?"

The films highlighted at the event were "Amazing Grace" (to be released Feb. 23 and reviewed in the Feb. 23 Tidings) and "Trade" (set for a late August release). "Amazing Grace," directed by Michael Apted and made by Bristol Bay (a company owned by Denver businessman Philip Anshutz who also owns Walden Media), is the story of William Wilberforce whose direct efforts as a member of the British House of Commons led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1807.

"Trade" follows the human trafficking tunnel from Mexico City to New Jersey. It stars Kevin Kline who plays a father who, while searching for his missing daughter in Juarez, Mexico, encounters the brother of a kidnapped victim. According to Heather Somani, a spokesperson for Lionsgate, the film received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Also receiving awards from CAST were Los Angeles City Council president Eric Garcetti and Amy Elaine Weakland, the Community Partners Award recognizing their human rights activism; and attorney Michael Gennaco, the Founder's Award. As chief of the Civil Rights Section for the U.S. Attorney's office, Gennaco was the lead prosecutor in the El Monte slave case in 1995 when 70 Thai nationals were released from several years' bondage in a sewing factory.

CAST was founded in 1998 "to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations." The Los Angeles-based communities of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary are active partner-sponsors of CAST as well.

For more information about human trafficking, visit CAST's website,; the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Amnesty International,

Actress Mira Sorvino was honored Feb. 11 for her efforts to promote awareness of human trafficking. 


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