Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Eden: Putting a Human Face on Human Trafficking
is time to drastically raise the penalties for anyone involved in human trafficking. Currently, for procurers and mules the
rewards simply outweigh the risks in what is estimated to be a $32 billion illicit
trade. Is capital punishment
unreasonable for those who lure innocent women into depraved enslavement and
most likely death? It is time to have
that debate, prompted by Megan Griffith’s fact-based Eden (trailer
opens this Wednesday in New York at Film Forum.
Eden is largely based
on the experiences of Chong Kim, a naturalized American citizen who spent years
as a captive of trafficking ring. Hyun
Jae is the name of her cinematic analog, but her kidnappers dub her Eden for
their clientele. She has a dangerous
secret—she looks younger than she is.
Most of the gang’s sex-slaves are disposed of once they reach her age. Partly that is due to their customers’ tastes
and partly a function of the extreme abuse they endure.
to survive, Hyun Jae makes herself useful to Vaughan, the erratic deputy of the
operation’s local supervisor, Federal Marshall Bob Gault. Vaughan is ruthless and tenacious, but his IQ
probably does not break 100. Having Hyun
Jae handle the cash and the phones helps the psychologically disturbed thug
keep calm and collected. However, Hyun
Jae has not given up hope. As she learns
the inner workings of the organization, she bides her time.
Chung was perfectly fine in Man with the Iron Fists and became a breath of fresh air in the otherwise dumber-than-a-bag-full-of-hammers Knife Fight,
but the raw power her work here is something else altogether. It is harrowing to watch her, but also
riveting and ultimately inspiring. You
are witnessing a victim resolving be a survivor, which is heavy. Her scenes with Matt O’Leary’s relentlessly
unnerving Vaughan are also genuinely intense and completely convincing.
other issue-driven human trafficking films, the chess game playing out between
Hyun Jae and Vaughan focuses the narrative, building unexpected suspense. This is clearly a film, tightly scripted by
Griffiths and Richard B. Phillips, not a white paper-backgrounder. Nonetheless, it exposes the horrifying crimes
happening right here in America: Nevada for Hyun Jae and presumably someplace in
the southwest for Chong Kim.
both the general public and law enforcement agencies have not been well trained
to detect trafficking. Still, those
aiding and abetting should take one lesson from Eden to heart. They are just
one mistake away from an anonymous grave in the desert—and it’s exactly what
they deserve. Cinematographer Sean
Porter effectively conveys the harshness of that wide open landscape (so
helpful to the sex-slavers) as well as the dark, grimy conditions in which the
women are held.
addresses an important and timely topic, but the
fearless performances from Chung and O’Leary will completely hook audiences on
an emotional level. Recommended for
general audiences, Eden opens this
Wednesday (2/20) at Film Forum.
Labels: Human Trafficking, Jamie Chung