Human trafficking has become a worldwide horror, with adults and children, alike, being forced into both prostitution and hard labor. The practice, which is a terrifying form of modern-day slavery, involves millions of victims from across the globe who are bought and sold as though they are mere commodities.
Over the past few years, the issue has received increased attention, although many still lack knowledge about just how pervasive the phenomenon is both abroad -- and even here in U.S. Considering this troubling dynamic, Friends Church, a house of worship in Yorba Linda, California, has decided to take action, producing a feature film centered around the subject.
The film, called "Not Today," isn't a documentary, rather it's a full-length feature that follows one young man's journey as he discovers the horrors surrounding human trafficking in India. A press release provided to TheBlaze explains the film's plot in detail, offering up some elements that traditional films generally don't offer (i.e. the ability for audiences to get involved in helping stop human trafficking).
Photo credit: Friends Media
"'Not Today' begins with a spoiled Orange County college student going to India to party and being confronted with the horrible reality of trafficking. When he strikes out on a cross country trek with a little girl's Indian father, we see the issue through American eyes," it reads.
"It ends with a three minute epilogue that almost didn't make it on air. . . another story that it almost had to be removed before theaters would play it. The epilogue gives viewers a number to text and find out all the ways someone can get involved to help stop trafficking," the description adds.
Here's the trailer for "Not Today":
The film's roots were set in 2007, when leaders of the church went to India for an entirely separate project. Observing the intense poverty and needs in the region, they pledged to build 200 schools (a total cost of $20 million). So far, they've completed 40 schools and have funded 30 more.
But in addition to the educational portion of their work, the church also realized that trafficking is a major problem and that, as a hub for the troubling practice, India was in need of major attention and assistance to help curb the problem.
TheBlaze spoke with Brent Martz, a member of the church who also produced "Not Today," and he explained how the film came to fruition. After noticing immense heartache in India, Martz said that the church produced a 14-minute documentary about the issue. While it was effective, he noted that Friends Church quickly realized that "there's only so much a documentary really can do to connect the head to the heart."
So, church members kept brainstorming and finally realized that a feature film was the best way to spread the message about the horrors of human trafficking. The story that ended up at the center of "Not Today" was derived from members' own experiences in India and from the horrific tales that they were told by partners they encountered in the region.
"If we're going to reach the heart...we're going to do it in a way the world would understand it...which is media," Martz explained of the initiative.
Below, see an exclusive clip from the film that shows the main character, Caden, helping a father try to locate his young daughter:
Highlighting the importance of the issue, the producer told TheBlaze that it's immensely important that everyone -- and especially Christians -- get involved in helping curb the issue.
"Human trafficking is important because it's not going away -- in fact its getting worse," he said, noting that there may be 27 million people around the world who are currently enslaved.
"If we don't step up and do something about it, then we're missing the boat on really what it means -- it's a human rights issue, it's not a faith issue, but shouldn't we in the church care most about human rights issues? Shouldn't we be the ones who are leading the charge and trying to live as Jesus lives, living outside ourselves for others?," Martz added.
An expanded synopsis offers additional details about the intriguing movie:
Caden Welles has the world at his disposal. With the resources of his wealthy father, he's living life as large as any 20-year-old could dream. But what happens when that dream becomes a nightmare halfway around the world?
Traveling with his friends to Hyderabad, India on a whim, Caden's expectations of a never-ending party crash hard. But not as hard as his conscience when he refuses to help a starving man and his little girl. Haunted by the images of Kiran and Annika, Caden attempts to right his wrong—only to discover Kiran has been forced to sell his own daughter.
Caden's eyes are now opened to a world few Americans know still exists: a thriving human-trafficking trade. Add the dehumanization of Kiran and hundreds of millions of other Dalits due to India's caste system, and Caden could easily turn his back.
Yet spurred by a true purpose, an unlikely new friendship, and the prayers of his mother and girlfriend back home, Caden chooses to help in Kiran's unlikely search to find his daughter.
Another clip, not part of the film but accompanying it, provides a first-hand account of a women who was sold into modern-day slavery (this is not a fictional portrayal and is, in fact, a true story):
"Not Today" was funded by private donations to the church. The producer explained that it is fully paid for and that no debts are currently outstanding from the film's production.
The hope is that the movie, which is opening in 20 cities across America on April 12 -- cities that have their own share of issues with trafficking -- will be able to bring in monies that can be turned around to combat the practice in India.
When asked, in his view, what success for the movie would look like, Martz was candid.
"I think success for us is people walking away saying I can make a difference, I can do something," he said.
The film opens this Friday. Additional details can be found on "Not Today's" official web site.
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