CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – Slavery may have been abolished in the United States 150 years ago but it continues to flourish throughout the world in the form of human trafficking, and a new movie looks to raise awareness while propelling moviegoers to take action.
Based on real events, "Caged No More" (PG-13) – which opens Jan. 22 -- tells the story of Aggie Prejean, an American who is searching for her two granddaughters and learns they have been kidnapped and sold into the sex trade overseas by a family member.
The plot may sound far-fetched but it does happen in the United States and around the world, with an estimated 1.2 million children trapped in sex slavery and other forms of slavery – often sold into the trade by their parents. They are among the 27 million people worldwide who are trafficked as part of an underground, modern-day slave trade.
The film was made by two of the co-producers of "God's Not Dead."
Alan Powell, who stars in the film and plays a relative who searches for the girls, told the Christian Examiner that he was incredulous when reading the script, asking a crew member, "Did this really happen in real life?"
"I have three daughters of my own, and I could not wrap my head around this concept," Powell said. "And immediately [the crew member] sent me a few articles about where this is happening – and not articles about something that was happening far away. One of them was a father in Ohio who traveled overseas to sell his own kid."
The film also stars Emmy Award winner Loretta Devine ("Grey's Anatomy"), Kevin Sorbo ("God's Not Dead") and Cassidy Gifford. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kathie Lee Gifford and singer Natalie Grant also make appearances.
Co-producer Lisa Arnold said "most people don't understand how prevalent" human trafficking is in the United States.
"We hope people will see 'Caged No More' and leave with a passion to become modern-day abolitionists and help us in this fight for the most basic human rights," Arnold said.
Some of the movie was filmed in Greece, where prostitution is legal and brothels are prevalent. But even though it is legal, there is a brothel black market, and only about 10 of an estimated 500-plus brothels in the country have a license, the Daily Mail reported. It is in such illegal brothels where the sex trade is widespread. Powell said the experience was surreal, with life imitating art as the film was being shot in the streets of Greece.
"It was quite an experience, and we hope that the audience will be as shocked as I was," he said.
Powell, who also is known for being a member of the music group Anthem Lights, said human trafficking is one of those rare issues in which people of all ideologies can unite.
"There are no Democrats or Republicans who are lobbying on the hill for human trafficking," Powell said. "We should be working with our neighbor regardless of their belief, their religion. I don't think you'll find anybody with a heartbeat who doesn't want this to end as soon as possible. This is a unique opportunity for us to find common ground to fight this."
"Caged No More" is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content and some violence. It contains no coarse language or sexuality. Visit CagedNoMoreMovie.com.