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SOLD: A Film with a Mission to End Child Sex Trafficking

April 15, 2016

When Academy Award winning filmmaker Jeffrey Brown read the novel SOLD by Patricia McCormick in 2007, it was the beginning of a 9-year journey that continues today.

“The novel, I often call it a prayer song, it’s so intimate,” said Brown. “I didn’t know much about sexual slavery at that point, but I wanted to make a film that supported kids who were vulnerable.”

Producer Jane CharlesWhat began in earnest as an effort to create a film on the issue of child sex trafficking evolved over the course of production into numerous partnerships with international non-profits doing the ground work to end sex trafficking and has also given rise to the Seattle non-profit Stolen Youth, co-founded by SOLD’s Seattle based producer Jane Charles to support local efforts to end human trafficking.

SOLD is a fictional story inspired by real-life accounts of young girls sold into sexual slavery to work in Calcutta’s red light district. Told through the perspective of a 13-year-old named Lakshmi, played by young newcomer Niyar Saikai, who was chosen out of over 1000 girls who auditioned for the part.

SOLD FILM TRAILER 2016 from Jaya International on Vimeo.

The film begins with pastoral views of Lakshmi’s poor rural village in Nepal.  When her family’s crops are destroyed in floods, Lakshmi’s parents sell her to a woman from the city. The woman charms Lakshmi with gifts and promises the precocious youth a job as a maid to help her family.  In actuality, Lakshmi is taken to a brothel where she is forced to work as a sex slave under the rule of a woman named Mumtaz, played by actress Sushmita Mukerjee.  Amidst the desperation of her circumstances, there are signs of hope as young Lakshmi develops positive relationships with other children and women in the brothel and a possibility for escape. 

Priyanka Bose and Niyar Saikia in SOLD

Depictions of sexual violence are not avoided but are carefully rendered, the film is currently officially unrated though some online sites list a PG-13 rating.  An example being when young Lakshmi is brutally drugged and raped on her first encounter. The attack is conveyed through out of focus point of view shots, close-ups of faces, and reflections.  Though the rating is relatively soft given the nature of the content, depictions of sexual violence whether directly shown or implied especially involving a child may be difficult to watch for viewers of any age.  Director Brown noted when possible an older actress was used as a stunt double in place of Saikai during difficult scenes, who was fifteen at the time of production. 

Niyar Saikia in SOLD

In researching for the film, Charles and Brown both felt it was imperative that they meet with girls in India and Nepal who have survived similar circumstances to find their main character for the story. Through the process, they began to engage with numerous non-profits working on combatting what has become a 150 billion dollar a year industry.

Brown and Charles speak passionately about wanting their film to ignite awareness for the issue of sex trafficking especially with regards to youth.  There are between 21 to 30 million people trafficked annually, with the average age of entry into the commercial sex trade being 13 years old.

Director Jeffrey Brown and cast of SOLD

“We went to Nepal and met literally thousands of kids, girls primarily, who had been trafficked,” says Charles. “Then we start asking questions: What’s happening in every country and what’s happening right here in our own backyard.”

This is much more than a film. We’ve seen the impact it can have.  We can’t walk away until it’s done what it needs to do in the world – we’re in it for the long haul.

On one of their trips the filmmakers were joined by five Seattle-based investors and supporters of the film, including Patty Fleischmann, who were deeply impacted and compelled to do something in their local community back in Seattle. Fleischmann notes, “When you are exposed to something this traumatic, an issue like children being raped, it is absolutely impossible to look away.”  Together with Charles they formed a board of 12 volunteers to create the non-profit Stolen Youth.  Stolen Youth serves as an advocacy and fundraising organization to support existing direct service providers in the greater Seattle area.

With the movie complete, Charles and Brown want their film both to connect with audiences and to be used as an educational, fundraising, and advocacy tool for local and international anti-slavery non-profits. The original novel by Patricia McCormick and the screen adaptation by Brown and co-writer Joseph Kwong are aimed at a young adult audience. A 50-minute version of SOLD where the more graphic scenes have been further toned down has been screened in high schools,  where Brown feels the ideal age to engage with the content are students in their Junior and Senior years. The SOLD website summarizes a list of partner organizations who are utilizing the film to advocate for their work. 

Actress Gillian Anderson and Director Jeffrey Brown.

Though the film is complete, both Charles and Brown feel compelled to continue the journey they began 9 years ago, ignited by the story of Lakshmi in the novel. 

“This is much more than a film,” says Charles. “We’ve seen the impact it can have.  We can’t walk away until it’s done what it needs to do in the world – we’re in it for the long haul.”

Visit the SOLD movie website to find out about upcoming screenings, organize a screening, or find out how to get involved.





After seeing the film, a group of Seattle community members came together to form the local non-profit, Stolen Youth, working to end sex trafficking.

Aileen Imperial

Aileen Imperial is a multimedia and documentary producer with a commitment to thoughtful observation and engagement. Her work has aired nationally on the PBS American Masters series, the PBS NewsHour, and she is a 2-time Emmy winner for feature videos in the Arts and Human Interest. Find her on Twitter: @imperealize

More stories by Aileen Imperial

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