This frank documentary on some of the more shudder-provoking aspects of the sex trade wraps with footage of President Obama citing “the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”
And that’s pretty much the angle that filmmakers Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson are driving home, vis-à-vis prostitution and its surrounding myths. They’re successful in confirming the just-how-muchness of what we already suspected: that most young women in the trade are trapped there under threat of violence, rather than by choice.
What’s truly hair-raising, and effectively presented, is that many of the girls that Wells and Wasson profile are young — like really young, like embryonically young — 12-year-olds who are already seasoned vets. The interviews cover a wide swath of this ugly underbelly, from kidnapped suburban teens to high-end “escorts” and the pimps, johns, and police that vie for their possession, and the film is wisely sparing of melodramatic flair, allowing the inherent drama of the situation to horrify and harrow on its own.
Survivor Danielle Douglas proves the most compelling screen presence, and her post-sexual enslavement life as a mother of two and badass roller derby player fosters some hope, although for the most part the outlook on trafficking is presented as understandably bleak.
The featured authority figures, like Denver’s Sergeant Daniel Steele, clearly mean well, but their self-aggrandizing hero complexes are unfortunate next to the comparatively affable-if-crude pimps. Maybe accidentally, the film seems to suggest that the deeper ideological issue is the same on both sides of the law: a tendency to view women as capital to be traded, used, or saved.