‘Nefarious’ to screen in PAC with Nanette Ward


Brittany Cornelison

Photo used under fair use doctrine from nefariousdocumentary.com
Photo used under Fair Use Doctrine from nefariousdocumentary.com
Students often spend their high school years trying to figure out their passion and what they want to do with their lives. However, seniors Ashleigh Atasoy, Urmila Kutikkad and Trisha Chaudhary found a cause to rally behind together early in their high school careers.
While taking the same sophomore Advanced Placement World Studies class, the girls’ teachers, David Graham and Katherine Sasser, introduced the topic of human trafficking. This study sparked the girls’ attention and provoked them to research the topic of sex trafficking even further. They believed the cause worthy and started brainstorming ways to get the word out about this overlooked issue.
“Trisha, Urmila and I … decided that we wanted to organize a benefit to raise awareness about human trafficking within the community. And so we did that, and we raised money,” Atasoy said. “We gave it all to International Justice Mission, which is an organization that fights trafficking on a global level. But anyway, through the benefit we got in touch with Nanette Ward. She’s the co-chair of Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition and, you know, we always kind of kept up that contact throughout junior year. We’d go to some meetings every now and then and events for the coalition. And we always planned to do something again while we were still in high school that was kind of like the benefit, but, you know, junior year came along and we were really busy and we had some ideas and then they ended up not really working out.”
The students raised a profit of more than $1,800 and donated the money towards International Justice Mission, a non-profit organization that fights sex trafficking across the globe. In addition to the money raised, there was also a great sense of awareness that rippled from this event.
“Through different connections they made for this event, someone referred them to the Coalition and to me and so the Coalition had an opportunity to be a part of that event and talk about trafficking as a global issue … it was in May 2012 and they called it ‘We The Women.’” Ward said. “It was a very impressive event. We appreciated that a group of sophomore gals actually did the planning and executed such a good event. We always want young people to be involved and take initiative and that has to be something that gets stirred up within your own hearts and minds, it doesn’t matter what older people or adults think. So when someone does take initiative it’s really special and so I had a lot of admiration and respect for the girls who had done that.”
Over the years of their interest in the topic of sex trafficking, the girls witnessed a film titled Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. Nefarious is a 2011 American documentary focused on exposing the truths about a modern-day form of slavery: sex trafficking. This film displays the realities that trafficking victims face on a daily basis within the system.
In the first scenes, Nefarious portrays an in-depth look at how the trafficking starts, where it occurs and how the selling of slaves happens. Surviving victims of this trade tell their stories in order to give the audience a deep view into the system that many don’t know even exists. The film spans several different countries, bringing all aspects of sex trafficking to the awareness of viewers.
“Watching the trailer again to remind myself, it is a very powerful documentary … if you even Google the trailer and watch the two minutes of that you get a sense very quickly … you have the visual of what it looks like, what it sounds like, you know what it’s like on the streets, what it’s like to hear the men talk about buying sex and so you don’t come away with any question in your mind that it really is a pervasive issue and an ugly issue,” Ward said. “It’s a harsh reality that you have to confront full on with this documentary, what’s going on around the world as well as the U.S.”
Drawing closer to the seniors’ last days of high school, they decided they wanted to host another awareness raising event. Since the film Nefarious intrigued them about this issue, they decided that they wanted to give the rest of the student body a chance to view it as well.
“This semester we just decided that this is our last semester in high school where we have this opportunity to do something. This is literally the activists’ dream, having this kind of access to a high school,” Atasoy said. “And back two years ago we had seen this film … and we had seen the organization that had put it on, they came and spoke afterwards, so we were familiar with it and it’s a really good film, obviously it was made by a non-profit, but it doesn’t look like that, it looks like a big budget film. They went to like 19 different countries, they have five or six [victims] in the film, so we decided it would be a really good opportunity to screen it at Rock Bridge.”
The three individuals worked in conjunction with the school to organize a showing of Nefarious in the RBHS Performing Arts Center lobby on April 30th and May 5th. Since the film is 96 minutes long, only 45 minutes of the documentary will be shown, followed by a short question and answers session with Ward.
Students are welcome to come, watch and inform themselves about this modern day form of slavery. Having Ward there to speak is a good way to get students correctly informed as well as to answer questions about the controversial issue of sex trafficking, Atasoy said.
“What I was asked to do was talk about trafficking being relevant as a local issue here in Missouri,” Ward said. “I also am supposed to be available for questions. I certainly want to hear what’s on their minds, what they’re wondering about, what it brings up to them. And to me, that’s really important because before even what I want to share with them is hearing what comes up for them after seeing it. You really need to be able to process a little bit, be able to say what comes up for you … it may bring up difficult feelings for people. I’m definitely going to want to hear what comes up for them, but also I do want them to know some examples of what’s gone on in Missouri and specifically in Columbia. I think it’ll be important to see how it relates to them and young people. Not just viewing it as an outsider looking in on a very tough documentary to watch, but to understand that there are victims among their peers, maybe among themselves that they’re not even realizing that what they’re experience is actually a form of trafficking or to realize their vulnerability.”
By Brittany Cornelison