Monday, May 9, 2016

We Have the Power to Break the Chain


BREAK THE CHAIN  is a feature-length documentary film that addresses the often "hidden-in-plain-sight" issue of Human Trafficking within Michigan communities and the United States.  The film chronicles two survivors of Human Trafficking within Michigan communities - providing a detailed look at how trafficking goes unnoticed within our backyards.  Kwami, a child survivor of Labor Trafficking, was enslaved for nearly five years with three other children in Ypsilanti, Michigan before anyone noticed.  Debbie, a survivor of Sex Trafficking, takes us through her experience of being sold for sex around the Detroit-Area between the ages of 13 and 18.

Accompanying the stories of these survivors are nearly 20 interviews with researchers, Senators, non-profit organizations, legal service agencies, law enforcement officers and several artists actively working to raise awareness for this global issue. The film teaches us that what we see in the media about human trafficking is one small sensationalized form - that it occurs anywhere and everywhere within our world.  More importantly, viewers will learn how we are all connected to this extremely profitable business and that we have the power to choose what we support, and ultimately, how we break the chain.


We are a different kind of film.  BREAK THE CHAIN is being developed for the sole purpose of education, awareness and providing a valuable resource for the non-profits, shelters and law enforcement agencies that work to end human trafficking every day.  At it's very core, this is a community film project - we are working directly with so many different organizations and task forces to create a film that is desperately needed for the Human Trafficking community.


 I think I have a knack for subjects that may be incredibly difficult to address or are often misrepresented, and I enjoy the challenge that is using film as a vessel for creating appropriate public discourse.  As I began to think about what my next documentary could be in 2014, I started seeing bits and pieces of “human trafficking” related information popping up in my news stream.  I was honestly confused at first because I thought this was an issue to be discussed regarding other countries such as India, but the articles were talking about trafficking occurring in Lansing, MI.  Reflecting on everything I had ever learned through our current streams of information, I realized I had never seen a film really showcasing Human Trafficking on a local US level and that I really had no clue what human trafficking was myself.  This may sound bizarre, but I could just sense that the same misconceptions surrounding the topic of sexual assault extended to human trafficking as well and I really wanted to learn more about the issue.  I don’t think I ever went back to the drawing board to hash out other possibilities for a documentary, I just zoned in on this.

Of course, when researching this issue within Michigan the first name I came across was Jane White - the director of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.  I reached out to set up a meeting with her about the possibility of collaborating on a film, and shortly after that email I was sitting across from her at Hobies in East Lansing eating cheetos.  We spent two or three hours at that place and I learned all about the incredibly complex and exploited issue of human trafficking within our world.  I also learned about how difficult it is for many organizations and survivors to trust filmmakers and the media with this topic because so many often misrepresent the issue and do more harm than good.  That’s when the overall idea for Break the Chain really started to settle in my mind - a documentary that tries its best to accurately spread awareness for the issue of human trafficking, to break the real chain. 

Laura Swanson is a documentary film director and is Co-Director of the Documentary, Break the Chain.