By NIDHA KHAN.
The topic of ‘slavery’ is rarely touched upon on in modern western society. It frequently evades our everyday conversations and on the rare occasion that it is discussed, it is mainly related to the release of historical films, such as 12 Years a Slave.
This happens because we conceptualize slavery as ‘historic’ – an issue that cannot possibly exist today because of how far mankind has progressed.
But slavery is still alive. In fact, more people are enslaved right now than in any other point in time.
In particular, sex trafficking – “the organised criminal activity of recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, or providing a person and especially a minor for the purpose of sex” – is the fastest rising form of modern slavery.
Sex trafficking is a $100 billion a year industry built upon enslaving two million women and children every single year – some victims as young as seven years old. The situation worsens, as only 1 out of 100 of these people are ever rescued and less than 0.5% ever take legal action.
These severe human rights violations demand attention. Yet, western countries such as New Zealand often turn a blind eye while simultaneously being feeders of this industry.
This fact became clear in 16-year-old Hunter William’s documentary Nvader, which won the Connected Media Sustainable Future Award and was The Body Shop Standout Winner Award in The Outlook for Someday sustainability film challenge for young people in 2015.
The documentary covers the work of Nvader, an organisation which investigates sex trafficking cases and works with local police to prevent and rescue victims. The film has been hailed as a “brave, sensitive and cinematic portrayal of an often ignored issue”.
It features interview clips with the founder of Nvader, a New Zealand police officer named Daniel Walker, and real life undercover footage from South-East Asia, captured by Nvader on hidden cameras in order to prosecute criminals.
Hunter first became aware of Nvader after hearing Daniel speak at an event in 2014 and it left the teen with the desire to make a change.
“It shocked me to realise the extent to which sex trafficking was occurring. I thought that people need to know about this and that’s why I decided to create my documentary. I know there are heaps of films about sex trafficking, but the fact that it’s still going on and that there’s still people who don’t know about it, just showed me that there aren’t enough films or coverage around it”.
Even after acknowledging the sensitive issue of sex trafficking, Hunter wasn’t deterred. In fact, it fuelled him even more.
“I like telling stories which are sensitive and push the boundaries. Those topics that we prefer not to talk about or just choose to block out, I want to bring them to the surface and get people talking about it. It’s important to do this, because if we never took risks and we never push boundaries, we would never advance. Especially with films these days, you’re reaching a big audience and you have the opportunity to tell them something and deliver an important message.”
Hunter didn’t reach this stage without hard work or determination. He’s been working on films since he was 9 or 10 years old and the lessons he’s learnt from his mistakes have shaped him into a better filmmaker. Hunter had previously entered The Outlook for Someday film challenge four times, which made his wins at The Someday Awards in 2015 extremely rewarding.
“It was surreal; it had been something that I had been working towards for nearly a quarter of my life”.
His advice for other young filmmakers is to “just go out there and do it. Don’t be put off by the fact that you’re only a kid or a teenager, you can do anything you want to do. Just keep making films and if you work hard and are passionate enough, then you’ll eventually get there.”
Currently, Hunter is working on his newest documentary – The Ultimate Sacrifice. It focuses on Saeed Ghandhari who lives in Auckland and is on the final 100 list of candidates for the Mars One project. The project aims to establish a permanent human colony on Mars for purpose such as research. In other words, those who are selected can never return back to earth.
Hunter first heard about Saeed after reading an article about him and realising that Saeed lived nearby. Later, his curiosity continued to increase after finding out that Saeed would also have to leave behind his wife and son, a thought that is hard to contemplate for most people. Naturally, Hunter seeks to question: “at what point is individual sacrifice worth more than the greater good?”
TEARAWAY is proud to be a media partner of The Outlook for Someday! You can stay up to date with all the news from the film challenge right here, and on their website.
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