The New Abolitionists is an important film because it sheds light on a pervasive problem in every city around the world (yes, ours too) and highlights the brave women and men who put their lives on the line to do something about it. At the start of the movie, Zorich’s mother, Olympia Dukakis, warns her to “protect herself” because when Zorich was filming, anti-trafficking organizations were placed under tight scrutiny as a result of their good work.
Cameras are on the ground following each organization’s members doing the Lord’s work. Nothing presented is ever salacious. Instead, the most shocking visuals show how pervasive the problem is. It’s not women and girls standing at a street corner. The problem is everywhere and, in terms of numbers and locations, it puts Starbucks to shame.
“…the most shocking visuals show how pervasive the problem is.”
As expected, The New Abolitionists presents a steady stream of talking-head testimonials with one heartbreaking story after another. Though the documentary tells maybe half a dozen stories total, each tale represents millions of others just like it. The problem is more significant than you’d ever imagine.
Zorich also explores how anyone can find themselves as a sex slave. Some girls and women were tricked into prostitution. Others were sold by their families. One village cheered when two girls sold their virginity, only for the girls to describe their experience as hell… just for perspective.
The worst part of the story is how governments are either unwilling or unable to do anything about the problem. In some countries, prostitution is legal, and authorities can’t investigate legal businesses. In Thailand’s case, their economy is so dependent upon tourism that they turn a blind, if not complicit, eye.
In the end, by following these four organizations, The New Abolitionists is there to offer hope and, as the title implies, freedom too. Thankfully, there are still people who care and people who have given up an everyday life of comfort to save others. For us to ignore the problem means we’ve given up and normalized the practice of slavery through our silence.
"…there to offer hope and, and, as the title implies, freedom too."