6 Documentary Films
The Why is currently working on 6 documentary films for the Why Slavery? series in collaboration with 6 independent and celebrated filmmakers.
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Director/ Søren klovborg (DK)
pRODUCER/ mETTE HEIDE (dK)
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DIRECTOR/ PANKAJ JOHAR (ND)
PRODUCER/ ALAN HAYLING (uk)
In the world’s largest democracy, India, millions continue to work in slavery. This film goes behind the statistics and explores how a lack of education and persistent poverty can provide a breeding ground for slavery.
The film follows the story of different children who have been sold into slavery: as a bride, to a factory, for domestic and even sex work. We trace their stories back to their families to understand the circumstances that resulted in them becoming slaves.
The film traces the chain of responsibility from the traffickers who facilitate the transactions, to the ‘employers’, or owners, who take advantage of these most vulnerable people, and the police, lawyers and politicians who fail to intervene.
Selling Children will also touch on the deep lack of knowledge and understanding of the issue of slavery throughout Indian society. This is because those affected by slavery are too poor and powerless to take legal action; and also due to indifference, complacency or lack of information.
The film is a personal narrative. Pankaj Johar grew up in India, and lives in Delhi. He is surprised as he uncovers the scale of slavery in India today.
DIRECTOR/ DAVID EVANS AND PHILIPPE SANDS (uk)
PRODUCER/ NICHOLAS KENT (uk)
In August 2014 an Islamic State massacre of unimaginable proportions took place during the rapid invasion of the Yazidi people in Sinjar, northern Iraq. Young Yazidi females were separated from the old and taken to the Galaxy Cinema in Mosul. There they were paraded, selected, enslaved, tortured and systematically raped. Some were only 11 years old.
According to the United Nations, thousands of Yazidi men have been executed, 7,000 women and girls were sold into sexual slavery.
In the film, international lawyer Philippe Sands encounters the son of Yazidi Kurdish immigrants, Dr. Jan Kizilhan – a world-acknowledged expert on trauma. Since the ISIS attacks on Sinjar he has secured funding from the German state to bring one thousand women and girls for treatment at his clinic in Schwarzwald, Germany. He travels to the Kurdish-Yazidi refugee camps in Dohuk and interviews escaped victims from ISIS.
The violence to which the girls have been subjected is purposeful. He selects those who can be treated. Yazidis, including the female victims, believe that sexual contact with a non-Yazidi, even through rape, results in a loss of Yazidi identity. As a way of destroying the community the rape of women and girls is almost as effective as the execution of the men.
The film asks what it means to be a survivor of slavery in 2016? How does Dr Kizilhan restore the girls’ dignity and help them heal? How do the women get justice for these heinous crimes? The film delves into the lives of the young Yazidi women. This is their story.
ENSLAVED: THE WORLD SCARRED BY SLAVERY
DIRECTOR/ JONATHAN STACK (Us)
US film director Jonathan Stack has spent most of his adult life documenting how slavery is internalized and externalized in today’s world. In the 1980s Jonathan was filming in crack houses in Harlem, where one addict told him: “We came over in a slave ship. 300 years later we are in a crack house. Nothing has changed”. Later, Jonathan spent years observing inmates at Angola Prison. Most of the men are descendants of African slaves and come from families where a life behind bars and in shackles has been the norm now for centuries.
From there Jonathan’s journey has taken him both to Liberia and Haiti. Liberia famously was founded by freed American slaves who were supported by the American government to go back and found one of Africa’s first democratic societies.
However, the former slaves proceeded to subject the indigenous tribes, some of whom still work in mines and on plantations in slave like conditions. Haiti, on the other hand, was one of the richest and most brutal colonies. It also became the first nation to liberate itself following a violent revolution.
Today, children in Haiti continue to be sent into slavery and the country remains the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. This film traces the history of slavery from Africa to the Americas and back and explores the deep wounds slavery has inflicted on these societies.
The film will use archive from 20 years of filmmaking, as well as interviews with renowned authors, cultural figures and political and religious leaders to explore slavery and the fight to liberate people from the vortex of its violence.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” - Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
DIRECTOR/ anonymous during production
pRODUCER/ anonymous during production
Right now North Korea runs one of the world’s largest slaving operations. Notoriously cash-strapped, the government is selling its own people as bonded labour, or slaves, to work in Russia, China, and a dozen other countries around the world – including member states of the European Union.
Experts estimate that since Kim Jong-un has come to power, the number of ‘Work Brigades’ has risen to more than 60,000. While in North Korea they are lured with a promise of high wages and glory for their families. Once enrolled, they find themselves in very foreign countries. Here they work up to 12 hour days, under harsh conditions, for little pay. Their ‘wages’ are transferred directly to the government, who reallocate it as they see fit. They live under constant surveillance by Korean agents and local supervisors, and their contracts last for years.
The film relies on limited footage from ‘Work Brigades’ camps in Poland, Mongolia and South East Asia. These will give us a sense of the scope of the operation. We will also include interviews and testimonials from those working in the ‘Brigades’ as well as some who have escaped. These images will often be blurred and voices altered in order to protect the workers and their families who remain in North Korea.
At the same time, we question the companies who employ the ‘Brigades’, as well as the governments in the countries where the ‘Brigades’ operate. Within the European Union, workers are supposed to be protected, yet companies in Poland, and elsewhere, contract North Korean ‘Brigades’. We want to understand how this method of operation is legal, and what – if anything – is being done to stop it.
U.S. PRISON SLAVES
DIRECTOR/ ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS (US)
PRODUCER/ FEMKE WOLTING (nl)
In the last 30 years, America’s prison population has surged from 330,000 to 2.3 million inmates. In this deeply personal and provocative film, Academy Award-winning, director Roger Ross Williams sets out on a mission to investigate the prison system that has helped drive this explosive web of political, social, and economic forces that have consumed so many of Roger’s friends and family.
In his search of answers, Roger decides to go behind the scenes of America’s $80 billion dollar a year prison industrial complex. As he explores the network of companies who are involved in this business he uncovers a disturbing pattern of greed and corruption, as well as enormous finanical incentives to keep inmate population high, and sentences long.
Roger is shocked to discover a modern revision of America’s original sin – slavery. Many corporations, such as Walmart, Macy’s, Starbucks and Microsoft have widened their profit margins by taking advantage of cheap forced prison labor, paying inmates between $0.19 and $0.42 an hour to manufacture products that are then proudly stamped with the label “Made in the USA”. The inmates are required by law to work. If they refuse, they are punished further either by losing recreation time, visitation privileges, or receive extended sentences.
Roger’s observations highlight the surreal components of America’s profit-driven policies, the moral void of the numerous players who have benefitted from mass incarceration and the echoes of slavery that still haunt american society.