It is difficult to look back on an odyssey such as the four-year production of Not My Life without a mixture of emotions that can only be sorted out with the passage of time and, of course, knowledge of how the film has affected the global audience for which it is intended.
But as we look forward to Not My Life’s global distribution campaign, it seems appropriate, however tentatively, to reflect on the journey my colleagues and I undertook to make the film itself.
Not My Life probes the dark, hidden, and often unspeakable realities of human trafficking and modern-day slavery-- multi-billion dollar global industries that earn their profits, as the film’s narration says, “on the backs and in the beds of our planet’s youth.” It is impossible to spend four years among the victims and survivors of these crimes-- virtually all of them children-- and emerge with anything other than a sense of sheer and utter horror. What kind of civilization cannibalizes its own children? How have we arrived at the levels of cruelty that modern slavery represents? How can these crimes go unpunished?
In his time, confronting human-on-human violence, Abraham Lincoln wrote: If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. When I first read this sentence, I was stunned by its moral logic. Here was the essence of Not My Life. Then I thought of the oft-quoted line by the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats: Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Right now, I feel what these men felt: anger, sorrow, fear, astonishment that we have even come to this. Perhaps these and other emotions are ones that the viewers of Not My Life will experience as well, and the ripple effect will begin. This of course is the great potential of the medium of film. It is a profoundly democratic, and enormously accessible way for us to communicate with one another, and better understand the world in which we live.
And so, at a time when it troubles me deeply that Lincoln and Yeats, writing long ago, have proven so prophetic about a world in which "nothing is wrong," I also take heart. For so long as we can talk to one another-- in a letter, in a poem, in a movie, in any way at all-- wrong can be made right, things do not have to fall apart, and our life as a human family can once again be compassionate and whole.