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Caroline Beyer '12 and Michael Wolf '12 (Photo by Sean Smith)

Features From the Fest: 'Modern Day Slaves'

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By Sean Smith | Chroncle Editor
Published: April 23, 2010
WHO: Michael Wolf '12 and Caroline Beyer '12

WHAT: Screening their documentary "Modern Day Slaves: Human Trafficking in New York and San Francisco" as part of an exhibition of social justice-themed film projects by students in the Jacques Salmanowitz Program for Moral Courage in Film.

WHEN & WHERE: April 29, 3-5 p.m., O'Neill 211

WEB: http://bit.ly/b2O1zN

Q: Talk about your film and how it came together.

BEYER: I was an intern at the Boston Police Department's Human Trafficking Task Force for about a year, which inspired me to come to Michael about making a film. Although human trafficking is becoming a more well-known issue, it is still considered something that only happens in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe (anywhere other than in the United States).

We wanted to educate people, particularly college students, about the extent of this issue in our own country. Human beings are in slavery in our own backyard, but most college students have no idea. We received funding from the Advanced Study Grant program, the Jacques Salmanowitz Program for Moral Courage in Film, and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

Q: What kind of work did the film entail?

WOLF: We traveled to New York and San Francisco for two weeks in each city this past summer. Human trafficking occurs in all parts of the US but is more concentrated in these cities. We interviewed about 20 or so people who work to combat human trafficking and spread awareness of the issue. We would have loved to interview survivors but it was a much too sensitive subject and the stipulations around the grant wouldn't allow it.

We tried to survey what human trafficking looks like in the US right now and who the major faces fighting it are. There are many angles necessary to fully eradicate a problem so we interviewed people in law enforcement, NGO's, and other documentarians and writers.

Q: Do you regard the film as finished, or do you still have more to do on it?

WOLF: I was doing the editing for the film, and we had around 30 hours of footage and wanted an hour-long final product. I had been sequencing and editing the film for most of last semester and two weeks before the end of the semester my external hard drive died. Unfortunately, I lost just about all of my work, but the original footage was backed up on another hard drive. I still had a preview that I had made and this shows the direction of the film.

I've worked on it some this semester, but have been very swamped with work. This summer I will be doing a film based job so I'll use these resources to finish the project in my off-time.

Being able to look at the project with "fresh eyes" is very important, especially with material as personal as this. I have to constantly remove myself from the project to make sure the narrative is understandable from the perspective of someone who is new to this topic.

BEYER: Between my experience in the anti-human trafficking field and his film expertise, we make a pretty good team.

To read our Arts Festival Featured Artist series from the beginning, click here: http://bit.ly/bGy3as