Christian film aims to curb human trafficking in India

Mumbai, India, Aug 4, 2012 / 07:13 am (CNA).- A group of independent film makers is using media to put an end to the epidemic of human trafficking that has plagued India's “untouchables” for centuries.

“We can see ourselves in this story and when we do that we get involved,” Brent Martz, co-producer of “Not Today” told CNA.

He hopes the film, which is set to release sometime next spring, will help make human trafficking in India a reality to film-goers, which will then prompt them to take action to stop it.

“We want people to join us to become part of this story – to become part of this cause to see slavery abolished in India,” he said.

Although the film focuses on the story of one girl named Annika who, under false pretenses, is sold into sex trafficking by her impoverished father named Kiran, Martz said it really is about helping all the Dalit people of India.

Many people, Martz lamented, have not even heard of the Dalit people. If they have, “ it was in a passing comment or news story.”

Dalits comprise close to one quarter of the India's 1.2 billion member population but, according to the caste system, are seen as inherently worthless. As a result, they face discrimination and poverty, making them extremely vulnerable to traffickers.

An estimated 3 million people in India are enslaved in the sex-trade alone, 1.2 million of whom are children, according to the Dalit Freedom Network.

“Not Today,” Martz said, aims to make movie-goers understand “what it really means to be one of the 250 million people who are enslaved in India because they are untouchable, the outcasts, the unwanted.”

Along with Annika's plight, the film includes the story of Caden, a materialistic American college student, who ends up assisting Kiran in the search for his daughter.

“Stories have a way of breaking through those informational walls that we build up,” Martz said, which is why he and his colleagues chose to make a feature film with mainly American actors, even though they made a documentary about the Dalits in the past.

The use of a young American protagonist will allow the audience to understand the plight of human trafficking “through the eyes or experiences of people like them,” Martz hopes.

Martz, who also serves as Pastor of Creative Ministry at Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., was inspired to make the film after he first visited India in 2007.

“We saw so many things and met so many different people, experienced things we had never experienced before to where our hearts were totally changed,” he said.

The movie, starring John Schneider of “October Baby” and television and film star, Cody Longo, was financed by Friends Church, making it possible for film proceeds to support the Dalit people through the various educational and social justice programs in which Friends Church is already heavily involved with in India.

Though it has not yet released in the United States, the film has gained international recognition at the 2012 Monaco Charity Film Festival when Persis Karen, the young Dalit girl who plays the role of  Annika, picked up “Best Breakthrough Performance” despite being just seven years old during filming.

Friends Church is currently largest supporter of the Dalit Freedom Network in their mission to prevent trafficking of Dalit children by building 2,000 schools throughout India. So far, the church has committed $20 million to the project.

“It is a global issue and is going to need global action,” Martz explained.

To learn more about the film or to help end human trafficking in India, visit: www.nottodaythemovie.com.

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