I had the distinct honor of talking with actress, producer, and humanitarian Kate Bosworth about her latest producorial effort, Nona. Directed by the incredibly talented Michael Polish (who also happens to be Bosworth’s husband), the film is the tale of a young woman who is persuaded by a charming young man to leave her home in Honduras in search of a new and better life in the United States. It’s a truly sad story, based on the realities survivors of human trafficking have suffered.
We talk about how timely the subject matter of the film is, and how Bosworth is working with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Human Trafficking (CAST) to help make real change in the arenas of human trafficking.
Nona is a wonderfully heartbreaking intimate film that shows the journey of hope turned horror that many immigrants face. Especially now at a time in human history where the supposed leader of the free world pretty much denies such people’s humanity and reduces human beings’ worth in our country to whether or not they have the proper paperwork. While there are a lot of political implications involved in a story such as this, Nona seeks out the human story in a situation that denies the humanity of its countless victims. I hope that people will watch this film and be emboldened to help any way they can to make human trafficking and sex trafficking end, or at least decrease its grasp on our worlds most vulnerable people.
Before we start, my friend Sami Buccella actually played bass with Stuart Matthewman in some of the songs for the soundtrack.
What a lot of people don’t know about Stuart’s music, the sound that you’re hearing throughout most of the score is mostly body clapping. Stewart is seriously brilliant, he brought in a whole layer of sound to do with a sort of subconscious feeling of the body; of body manipulation, of body parts and just the tactile feeling of sound throughout the entire movie.
“…it’s a tragic issue and yet it’s one that because of its’ secrecy and mercurial nature…”
I wanted to start by asking if you and Michael come to this idea together or did you have it first? What made you two decide to make Nona?
It was Michael’s idea initially. He had heard a story about a sex house that was busted in Los Angeles that wasn’t so far from our own home. I think he was on his way home from work and heard this story on NPR or on some satellite radio station, I’m not sure. He was just kind of riveted by it. In that particular report it had said there were 44 known sex houses in the Los Angeles area, but in terms of…you know so much of this goes on behind closed doors, it’s so well hidden, but it’s difficult to really identify precise numbers in that way which is part of the problem to some extent.
So he had heard this particular report of this house that had been busted, and he has a daughter who, at the time, was 19 years old and could have easily been one of those girls if not for another circumstance in life. So he came home and just said: “I feel like there is an important narrative to convey here.” It’s an important issue, and it’s a tragic issue and yet it’s one that because of its’ secrecy and mercurial nature, it’s not very well known in a way. There’s a kind of blanketed general idea of human trafficking and maybe even sex trafficking.
Michael and I agreed and we sat around the kitchen table and discussed this and started fleshing this movie out, which is where is the humanity in this issue? We’re literally talking about human beings and yet it seems like the humanity and the life stories of these people and the “how this happened” is lost. You know what I mean? It’s sort of eclipsed by the nature of what it is and the hideousness of what it is and then the statistically overwhelming nature of the issue.
Michael said, “I want to start with one girl.” With one human being, and he did a lot of research and found that many of these boys and girls who are ultimately sold into human trafficking are looking for a better life. They’re from Central America and Mexico and are being smuggled over here to escape whatever their situation is where they’re from and end up being victims to this hideous crime. So Mike wanted to start with one human being and tell the how of the story and tell the how of the issue and ultimately bring the humanity and empathy into the narrative so that hopefully audiences can connect to it so that we can all have a greater dialogue on the issue.
“…bring the humanity and empathy…so that audiences can connect to it so that we can all have a greater dialogue…”
This is a strange kind of question, but could you ever see yourself becoming the target of someone like Hecho in the film? I feel like he’s so charismatic and charming that anyone of a certain naivete could fall for it. I know I could have seen myself falling for it at one time in my life; some charming guys are saying “Oh I want to take you on a trip, I’m so romantic blah blah.” Do you empathize with that?
Oh yes, well that tactic is a new tactic that a lot of traffickers are using because that was something that came from our research actually, it wasn’t something that was fictional. It’s sort of this new approach that traffickers have where they send these charming, cute guys to these places and really like my character says in the movie is the master manipulator of someone’s psyche. Sort of dangling this carrot in a really seemingly harmless way.
They say “You’ve got something special in you, I see it in you. Why don’t you just come with me? I’ll bring you another opportunity that’s far better than where you’re at,” and because these people are so vulnerable and, human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable of society. A lot of that is extreme poverty, a lot of that is violence at home, runaways, people who feel displaced and lost and people who are in immense danger already. They’re searching for a way out.
I’ve been working very closely with a wonderful organization called CAST which is the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. They repeatedly say that the traffickers are incredibly smart. One of the ways in which CAST works that I appreciate that makes them so successful in what they do is that they take a long-term approach to survivors. They have about a year and a half to two years which they work with survivors and empower survivors. Then after that, there are a vast majority of survivors who begin working with CAST, so they start working with counseling new victims to help rehabilitate them.
One of the reasons why it’s so important to work with survivors is because the traffickers are so clever in the sickest way possible. They’re incredibly clever in how they manipulate people, so to work with survivors gives them the real inside track on how those minds work so they can try to stay a few steps ahead of that or try to mitigate that risk somehow. Regarding knowing the devil you’re dealing with on a more intimate level.
“…started filming this in late February 2017 and Michael conceptualized it…it was very quick, I want to say the end of January 2017.”
I have one more question for you. Do you feel like yall were putting Nona together that there was any sort of connection to the political climate that’s going on right now with all the insanity over immigration and stuff like that or was that something that just coincided with the release of the film?
Oh, my goodness. We could not have foreseen the timeliness of the subject matter and where we are today. I mean, really. We started filming this in late February 2017 and Michael conceptualized it…it was very quick, I want to say the end of January 2017. The genesis for it truly was the story that he heard, then Trump was elected into office. Then what we thought was coinciding with the movie was Michael was shooting in Mexico because the temperature for violence in Mexico once Trump was elected president escalated, so his safety was put more at risk. So that was the first thing we thought about but in terms of the release of the movie coming out with the caravan literally walking the same trek that Nona trekked. There’s no way we could have foreseen that but the topical nature of the release is certainly not lost on us, and we feel grateful to be telling a humanitarian story that seems to be colliding with the times in such a relevant way.
I cried so much during Nona. The fact that the aspects of the film and the political landscape do coincide will give more attention to the subject, and maybe more steps will start to be taken by the powers that be.
I mean I hope so, thank you. I watch the news and my heart breaks because every single one of those people, there’s a high risk of the potential of them being Nona. It increases their vulnerability and their risk factor of being trafficked or put into hazardous circumstances. So I hope that the movie can bring awareness to the subject matter so that we can be more knowledgeable and more aware of what’s happening.
Thank you so much for taking the time, and I look forward to seeing you on all the morning shows and good luck with the premiere!
Oh thank you so much, I really appreciate it truly. This is such a labor of love for us, so I appreciate your support more than you can imagine.