The Common Good

A 'Call and Response' to End Modern Slavery

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Last week two films were released that present propagandized visions of the United States. Bill Maher's Religulous suggests that religion is poison and its adherents are crazy; the spoof An American Carol wants to say that questioning President Bush is itself an act of treason and critiques of the war in Iraq deserve no attention because they are inherently spineless. Both films are intellectually disingenuous and add little positivity to the current national debate. So it's something of a relief to say that another piece of cinematic propaganda goes on a national tour of movie theatres this weekend, one whose moral compass is something of an antidote to the arrogance and victim mentality of An American Carol and Religulous in the form of a shocking expose of the horror of modern slavery: human trafficking. In Justin Dillon's film Call and Response, the stories of the 27 million people currently in labor bondage are illustrated with graphic hidden camera footage and intercut with interviews and musical performances by the likes of Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, and Emmanuel Jal.

It's a powerful film, in which interactions with the victims of trafficking speak for themselves. Talking heads such as Nicholas Kristof, former U.N. Ambassador John Miller, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and actor Ashley Judd make the case that there are more people in slavery today than at the time of the abolition movement and outline the relationship between the arms and drug trade and the buying and selling of people. Human trafficking, bonding labor, and sexual slavery are vastly profitable businesses, and so the question of supply and demand is obvious. And you don't need to look far for this horror, for even people who serve in your favorite restaurants may be subject to the oppression of not being able to make their own choices.

Everyone who sees this film will have their own most striking moment

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