Traumatic true life events inspire and inform as Ren Zelen discovers She Has A Name, in select UK cinemas from 17th June...
Directors: Daniel Kooman, Matthew Kooman
Writer: Andrew Kooman
Starring: Giovanni Mocibob, Teresa Ting, Will Yun Lee, Deborah Fennelly, Eugenia Yuan, Gil Bellowes
She Has a Name was originally a play written in 2010 by Canadian playwright Andrew Kooman. It dealt with the trafficking of children into sexual slavery and was inspired by tragic deaths in an actual trafficking incident. Kooman has now adapted his harrowing work into a cinematic thriller.
“Whenever I write for the stage I think of film as well,” Kooman has been quoted as saying. He wrote the screenplay, but gave the task of shooting the film on location in Thailand to his brothers, Daniel and Matthew Kooman.
She Has A Name follows the story of Jason (Giovanni Mocibob), a determined and idealistic lawyer, who poses as a sex tourist in the hope of building a legal case against a sadistic pimp who is trafficking underage girls and boys.
After infiltrating several brothels, he meets Number 18 (Teresa Ting) a young prostitute who admits that she is fifteen years old and was first abducted when she was only nine.
Jason comes to believe that Number 18 could be a key witness to a barbaric human trafficking tragedy. The victimized girl is known only as Number 18, to reflect how traffickers dehumanize their victims by giving them simply a number, which in some cases is branded onto their bodies.
In perilous meetings in the backrooms of the grimy Bangkok brothel, Jason tries to gain her trust and persuade her to testify against her ‘boss’ and the criminal trafficking ring.
She Has A Name was inspired by an investigation into a shocking trafficking incident in Thailand where a storage container transporting more than 100 people ran out of gas and was abandoned in the heat, causing the deaths of those inside.
The film examines the layers of corruption that enable the global commercial sex trade to thrive, exploiting children and ruining the lives of countless young girls and boys by denying them a future. It touches on the culpability of the sex-tourists, paedophiles and perverts that support this callous, criminal industry.
Teresa Ting as Number 18 gives a heart-breaking performance, investing her character with a range of emotions. She begins with the conventional prostitute’s pretence of sexuality that she has been forced to act out, but gives us increasing glimpses into her pain, fear and despair, before she places her fragile hopes in defiance.
Her relationship with Mocibob’s Jason also brings about some of the film’s most moving moments. Giovanni Mocibob manages to capture the empathy and pity that any decent human might have for the plight of these young victims and the continual horror as he comes face to face with the unimaginable reality they must contend with. Both actors capture the fragility of a connection based in hope and fear during some raw emotional scenes.
Shooting on location in Thailand also injects a gritty sense of authenticity. Shot in and around Bangkok, the film juxtaposes shots of Thailand’s lush landscapes with the claustrophobic drama playing out between 18 and Jason in the dingy room in a city brothel.
In the story, the political corruption is seen to reach deep into the U.S. government. We are reminded that this film is only a fictionalized account of what is really happening to real victims every day, and not just in Asia.
The film offers no easy solutions. Throughout the movie, those tasked with helping victims of human trafficking are faced with deep-seated corruption, callous criminality, poverty and indifference. It’s estimated that of the two million children forced into sexual slavery, only one per cent have been rescued.
While She Has a Name works as a drama, the brothers stress that the film has also been created to reach a larger audience and raise awareness of human trafficking and its underage victims. After attending college, Andrew Kooman worked for a Christian non-profit organization in Malaysia where he came across child victims of the global sex trade. His brothers have also made documentaries expanding on this theme.
As part of the film’s distribution strategy, global anti-trafficking agencies will be distributing the film through their networks to ‘Fund Freedom.’
Through the website, 20 per cent of money made through rentals or purchases of the Blu-ray will go to organizations such as Iris Cambodia, IJM Canada and Globalact - groups on the front lines in the war against human trafficking.
Please visit: www.shehasanamefilm.com and book your UK cinema screening tickets now from www.ourscreen.com/film/She-Has-A-Name
Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2017 All rights reserved.
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Images - courtesy Unveil Studios