Athleisure Mag proudly supports SOLD in efforts to help stop children sex trafficking.
The story of one brave thirteen-year old Nepalese girl who dreams of buying a tin roof for her family home, only to be tricked and taken to a prison brothel in India where she is coerced into bonded sexual slavery. Despite conditions, her will is never broken. Gradually, she builds friendships and trust with others, creating a new family, while secretly planning her escape. Grounded in hope and the resilience of the human spirit, the film rouses feelings of outrage and inspires action.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What led you to begin the project and mission? (tell us more about the book by Patricia McCormick)?
JEFFREY D. BROWN: My father is a pediatrician who worked in refugee camps most of his career helping children in dire circumstances in Haiti, Somalia, Biafra, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sorevjo, and many other countries.
I wanted to make a film that could drive a campaign to help real children. When I read SOLD in one sitting 10 years ago, I knew I had found the vehicle I was looking for.
AM: Who else joined forces to get the film made?
JDB: Jane Charles was the first call I made and she read the book and came on board immediately. Together we raised the funds to get the film made and distributed and now we are raising the funds to continue our campaign across the world. We made SOLD as a tool for change, and everyone can be part of it by bringing SOLD to your community, church group, college, high school or corporation. We created two versions of the film for this purpose - the full length version which has opened in 9 film festivals, won 4 audience awards and two Jury Awards and a shorter 50 min version which is rated PG-13 for high schools and corporations. If you go to www.soldthemovie you can request a screening there.
AM: Tell us about the film? How is it a call-to-action and what light does it shed about human spirit?
JDB: The film, ike the book, is in a first person account. We put you in the shoes of one amazing girl who we follow as she is tricked and trafficked. By telling one girl's story - we tell the story of the 5.5 million children who are trafficked every year. Statistics go into your head - SOLD goes straight into your heart.
When you learn first hand what is happening - you have to then do something about it. The Taught Not Trafficked campaign gives our audience a way to become part of the solution. Along with our many partner organizations we are re-building schools in Nepal destroyed in the earthquake. If you can keep a child in school until they are 16 years old, their chances of getting trafficked drop 80%. We are bringing vocational training and healing to children who were trafficked. And we are building safe houses to get the children of sex workers out of brothels before they are forced into the work their mothers do- so we are interrupting second generation trafficking.
AM: What personal lessons and growth have you seen over the course of doing the film and project?
JDB: Making this film and waging this campaign has personally made me much stronger. We have encountered all kinds of tests and challenges. It has affirmed my faith that nothing succeeds like patience and any time not spent on love is wasted. I have described this journey as a long and winding walk on red hot coals. You have two choices- keep going and trust or get off. Jane and I have kept going because in meeting thousands of girls who were trafficked- we now must make a difference in their lives.
AM: What were the first steps to action (and what were difficult obstacles to get going)?
JDB: We went to India and made a trailer before we made the film. We did this incredibly inexpensively to give people a feel for what we were aiming to create. It still took 2 years to raise our funds. It also took 6 months to find the lead Niyar who is just amazing. We saw over 1000 girls before she was cast.
AM: What went into the casting process and tell us about some of the amazing talent in the film?
JDB: Tess Joseph in Mumbai was our casting agent and she found amazing talent for us. There are so many wonderful, well trained actors in India. Sushmita Mukerjee who plays the iron fisted brothel madam - auditioned for us- she is famous in India and had never auditioned for anything. She is an amazing TV star. She rented a long wig and just nailed the part in her audition. She is funny and scary and unpredicatable. The other amazing cast includes Gillian Anderson from X- Files and David Arquette from Scream - both were friends of mine. From India we have many award winning cast members: Tillotama Shome (Monsoon Wedding) Seema Biswas (Water, Midnight's Children) Ankur Vikal (Slumdog Millionaire) Parambrata Chatterjee (Kaahani). But the most incredible performance is from Niyar Saikia who plays the lead - Lakshmi.
AM: How many schools have been rebuilt so far and what are short and longer term goals? Tell us more about the educational awareness and boarding facilities programs.
JDB: So far, with Childreach International and the #TaughtNotTrafficked campaign we have re-built 90 classrooms. We will build another 200 in the Spring when SOLD goes out to 40 UK Universities.
32,000 classrooms were destroyed in the earth quakes, that is 5,000 schools leaving over a million children with no schools to attend. They are now 300% more likely to get trafficked then they were when they were attending school.
We are also with Arto of Living's Care For Children Initiaitive, using SOLD to raise funds to build 10 boarding safe houses for children of sex workers. If we can get thousands of children out of the brothels before they are forced into prostitution at age 13- things will change.
We are bringing vocational training with Build A Nest and healing with iRest training from the iRest Institute. Initially we are bringing this to survivors at 5 NGO's and also to three businesses which employ survivors. With vocational training the girls who were trafficked can earn their own way. Sadly, most of them cannot go home because of the shame and stigma. Our long term goal is to prove this vocational training and healing work and spread it to the 50 other NGO's in India and to all NGO's with survivors in Nepal as well.
AM: Where can we see the film and what is the present campaign?
JDB: If you go to www.soldthemovie.com, there are buttons to click there with links to bringing the film to your community or school.
If you go to our website and click on Take Action - there is a host of things you can do to become part of the solution including shopping from survivor made products like clothing and jewelry. All of what you purchase supports survivors and 15% of sales that go through our website support the #TaughtNotTrafficked campaign.
It will take hundreds of people working together to make change. Together we can do it.
AM: How can people help?
JDB: Arrange to see SOLD in your church, school, rotary club, club or corporation and support the #TaughtNotTrafficked campaign.
Bring others to this issue by showing SOLD. After the screening unite the audience together with a pledge to make change. Funds are needed for local and international non-profits who are dedicated to making a difference. Our supporters started StolenYouth.org in Seattle and have made huge changes there. We have a downloadable PDF called Circles of Change- which shows how to start an organization like that which simply raises funds each year for existing organizations in Seattle to help them scale up.