• Film

Docs: “The New Abolitionists” – The Mission to End Sex Trafficking in Southeast Asia

Christina Zorich unveils a powerful new documentary, The New Abolitionist, a movie about the mission to end sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. The feature doc, produced by Olympia Dukakis, trails the journey of abolitionists throughout Southeast Asia, people who have devoted their lives to freeing and rehabilitating those involved in criminal human sex trafficking, and prosecuting the perpetrators. In 2012, after meeting Erica Greve of the non-profit organization Unlikely Heroes, Zorich began researching and investigating human sex trafficking. While shooting in Thailand, Christina was introduced to like-minded NGO anti-trafficking groups, who had dedicated their lives to attacking human sex trafficking on every front. This interview was conducted by Zoom.


Once you decided to take on this enormous project, how difficult was it for you to shoot the documentary, especially when dealing with such a shocking subject?

Well, everything you could imagine, feel or think happened. It was very difficult for me to understand how it was humanly possible that this is actually going on in our modern day. In 2012, I was at a party in the Hollywood Hills and ran into an anti-trafficker named Erica Greve. She had just started Unlikely Heroes, which is on NGO, where she built homes for rescued women and children. And through her journey of making this film, she found out that most of these anti-trafficking activist groups are very structured so the substance of my film is trying to figure out how to deal with this? How to stop and address this? I wanted to understand how it operates, what the causes and conditions are. I had never directed a feature film, let alone a doc feature, but I set off on the journey and self-funded the project until halfway through the edit, when thankfully my Mom came in and rescued the project as a producer and helped bring it over the finish line.

It must have been a challenging shoot, especially when it came to getting footage?

I’m always walking a fine line of wanting to honor and respect the work they’re doing, but I also wanted the audience at large to be educated and become knowledgeable of what can be done. This is a true criminal industry, I could barely shoot and had to pixelate most of the footage to protect them and myself. There is a real present danger with the traffickers, with any corrupt involvement, with any government, especially involving this subject matter. Quite frankly, it caused a lot of migraine headaches and a lot of agitated emotions.

Only about one out of the 100 victims is able to leave or get help. How is such humanly possible?

I’ll tell you a story so you understand why. When Erica was opening a home in the Afar region, they had been given permission by a local government official to go into an underground brothel and extract young girls out. She pulled out about 12 to maybe 14. They wanted to get more girls out, but they wouldn’t come. Their souls were too broken, too beaten. Most traffickers abuse these children physically, verbally, they drug them so that they become disoriented. Sometimes there’s an initial trauma from a family member, a friend, a neighborhood person who has tricked or prodded them into this situation. Imagine the trauma, to have somebody close to you do that to you at such a young age. These children are broken. The fact that people survive, get out and are able to build full lives, create dreams and have people fight for them is nothing short of a miracle. It is impossible to get our brain into the mind and heart space of these victims. Just retelling that story right now makes me feel brokenhearted.

Are you working on any other project at the moment?

My next project is Knock, a documentary about the Number Two criminal industry globally – human trafficking in the US. There are international cartels working with gangs in our country trafficking women and children in the US, which is actually much more hidden than it is in Southeast Asia. Many people in this country don’t realize how bad it is, including myself. One example, I am focused on in Knock is a story about this girl who was trafficked out of her mother’s basement in Kansas. Her own mother put her body up and this girl was destroyed from the experience of being exploited for years.

The New Abolitionist will be available on April 11 on Amazon. Those who would like to contribute to the anti-trafficking can visit the website: http://www.TheNewAbolitionistsDoc.com/ and go to the “what can I do” page.