films that make a difference
Slavery is officially banned internationally by all countries, yet despite this, in the world today there are more slaves now than ever before. In the four hundred years of the slave trade around 13 million people were shipped from Africa. Today there are an estimated 27 million slaves - people paid no money, locked away and controlled by violence. Multi-Award winning documentary makers Kate Blewett and Brian Woods - who produced the groundbreaking films The Dying Rooms, Innocents Lost and Eyes of a Child, saw this terrible exploitation with their own eyes. The result is an utterly devastating film.
PROFESSOR KEVIN BALES from the UN Working Group on Contemporary Slavery notes one crucial difference in the slaves of today: "In the old days slaves were expensive you kept them for their whole lives, you took care of them. Today they are cheap, there is a glut of slaves and when you've used them you throw them away if you don't want them any more - they're disposable."
Taking three separate industries where slaves are still to be found: the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast, domestic slavery in Britain and the USA, Kate and Brian's investigation began with the carpet industry in northern India. At present approximately 4,000-5,000 children are missing from Northern Bihar. Amongst the missing is HURO, a boy who disappeared at six years old, and hasn't been seen by his family for over five years. His father CHICHAI is desperate to find him, yet barely makes enough money to feed his family, making it impossible for him to search for his son. In the meantime he is vigilant that unscrupulous men don't abduct any of his other children: "We don't let them go far away. They play near to the house and come back often." Thankfully because of the South Asian Coalition against Child Servitude (SACCS) Chichai can eventually travel to the carpet belt. During a dramatic armed raid on a loom deep in India’s countryside, father and son have a miraculous and emotional reunion.
In the cocoa industry of Cote d'Ivoire, Brian and Kate found more slavery. The country produces nearly half the world's supply (over 100 million tonnes) grown on thousands of small plantations - cocoa which finds its way into the newsagents and supermarkets of Britain. The young men are worked up to eighteen hours a day, unpaid and beaten if they try to escape. Kate and Brian interviewed slaves still working in the plantations, as well as a group of young men who had been rescued just days before. One boy, scarred from head to foot from brutal beatings, described how he and other boys were mistreated by their captors, if they attempted escape: "They would tie your hands behind your back. Then one person would beat your front and someone else your back". Kate asks DRISSA an eloquent young man who worked for five and half years in the cocoa plantations what he would like to say to the rest of the world who eat chocolate: "They enjoyed something I suffered to make; I worked hard for them, but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh".
If we think about modern slavery at all, we imagine that it is only found in the developing world, a long way from our Western democratic capitals. Not so as Kate and Brian found in both Washington and London. Joy Zerempka who works with enslaved workers in Washington DC states: "We have had all sorts of cases we've had women tell us they have not been called by their names instead they were referred to as 'the slave' or 'the creature'". One such woman called Dora in Washington and another Reshma in London tell similar stories of cruelty, long hours and no payment. Both wish, in their own courageous way, to bring to the public's attention the wrong that has been done to them in order to prevent such abuses happening in the future.
This film isn’t all bad news, however. The film-makers also look at how slavery can be fought, both here and abroad, without making the poor poorer. In Brazil they meet charcoal workers who used to be enslaved but are now paid because of pressure brought to bear by the North American public after the slavery was exposed. In India they visit a school for ex-slaves funded by the Rugmark Foundation, an organisation that ensures that carpets sold in our shops have not been made by slaves - freeing the slaves, but keeping the rural Indian economy going. And Professor Bales explains how through organisations like Fair Trade, we can make sure that when we buy a chocolate bar, we’re not buying into slavery.
We made Slavery because we wanted to make a difference. You can too:
London SW9 9TL
Tel: 020 7501 8920
Fax: 0207 738 4110
Free the Slaves
South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude
New Delhi 110019
Tel : 00 91 11 720 2213 (Ashram)
Fax : 00 91 11 720 2247 (Ashram)
Thomas Clarkson House
Tel: +44 (0) 20 77 37 26 75
Fax: +44 (0) 20 77 38 41 10
c/o TRANSFAIR e.V.
Tel: +49 (0) 221 94 11 253
Fax: +49 (0) 221 94 20 40 40
Comite Contre l’Esclavage Moderne
4 Place de Valois
Tel: +33 1 42 60 73 77
Fax: +33 1 55 35 36 56
"“Kate BLewett and Brian Woods are brilliant and intrepid filmmakers.” "Polly Toynbee, Radio Times
"“In many respects a model documentary” "The Times