$300 for one night with a 12-year-old? 'The Abolitionists' spotlights war on child trafficking

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Many movies try to inspire the audience, but they rarely have an impact that "The Abolitionists" -- in theaters Monday for one night only  – already has.

The fast-paced documentary goes undercover to follow former Department of Homeland Security special agent Tim Ballard as he travels around the world, working with American and foreign officials as they try to free children from the bondages of sex slavery.

During filming, 57 children in Haiti and Columbia were rescued from sex slavery and seven human traffickers were arrested and now face prison – an achievement that Ballard and the crew hope inspires moviegoers to get involved in the movement.

The movie itself is rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some sexual references, but it was filmed with the goal of being realistic without turning off a conservative audience.

The executive producer was Gerald Molen, the same producer who made "Schindler's List." He calls the heroes in the film "modern-day abolitionists."

"I believe it's no coincidence that this film comes almost twenty years after we released Schindler's List," Molen said.

Nearly 2 million children around the world are the victims of human trafficking. Some of the girls seen in the film were forced into prostitution around the age of 12 or 13.

The street price for one night with a minor is $300 -- $1,000 if the child is a virgin.

Director Chet Thomas told the Christian Examiner he felt called to make the movie, despite the graphic nature of what he would see while filming.

"When slavery was abolished the first time around, Harriet Beecher Stowe used entertainment to bring an awareness. She wrote a book, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' which sold 19 million copies," he said. "'The Abolitionists' will build awareness."

In fact, Thomas and the crew have recorded so much footage during other operations that they hope to make a TV series.

"If we can hit it over and over and over, we feel the topic will not go away. It will continue to be on people's mind," he said.

The Christian Examiner asked Thomas about the film and the future. Following is a partial transcript:

Christian Examiner: There's a certain realism to this movie that is not seen in all documentaries. Was the team in danger in time?

Chet Thomas: Oh, yes. We've had some moments. We are always with special agents for the embassy or special agents for the local government. But there have been some moments that were pretty intense and quite dangerous – not something I have been accustomed to being around. There have been some close calls. We're not interacting with the nicest sort of people. On occasion, it can get hairy.

CE: Where all did you travel?

Thomas: Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Africa, Peru, Costa Rica. We've been in quite a few countries. We've done about 30 operations, including here domestically.

CE: How difficult is it to make a film about a subject that is so stomach churning? Why tackle this?

Thomas: It was difficult, for sure. Why tackle it? I was made aware of the problem, and because of that, I can no longer stand on the sidelines. I knew I had to do something, and if I did not do something I would have to answer to my Maker. Then, the question was: How do we tell this story in such a way that we build an awareness and the audience is able to look through the window without being drug through the mud – and then be inspired to do something? That was tough. There were versions of the film, early on, where it was too hard on the audience, and people in the audience walked out. So we had to edit it. We feel like we have the movie in the right spot where people can watch the film, yet not be drug through the mud, and be inspired to act at the end.

CE: What are you wanting people to take away from this?

Thomas: We want people to become aware of the problem, and then actually be inspired to act – stand up, raise their voices. It's going to take the voice of the people to eliminate this problem.

For information, visit TheAbolitionistsMovie.com

Michael Foust is Christian Examiner's premier film critic.