“A child is sold into sex slavery every 30 seconds”
Director, Anya Camilleri has released her powerful short film, ‘A Girl of No Importance’, in partnership with charity, Stella’s Voice, to raise awareness of human trafficking and sex slavery.
The film was premiered in London last week at The Mill, who offered their support, hosting a screening of the film, followed by drinks on their roof terrace.
Edited by Homespun’s Phil Currie, A Girl of No Importance is set in Rome and follows the journey of a 16-year-old girl who has escaped her traffickers. Fleeing the side of the motorway where she is forced to solicit customers, the dangers of her escape are explored through emotion. As Alina finds her way into the city, it is clear she cannot trust anyone, as a corrupt police force means she has no one to turn to.
Camilleri has a personal connection with the subject, basing the film on real stories told to her by the girls who are enslaved and forced to work on the Roman motorways.
“I started to notice these girls when I was driving. They were incredibly young and beautiful and I began to ask myself questions. After some research, I reached out to local charities that rescue these girls to find out who they are and what’s happened to them. I was appalled by what I learned. I wanted to do something that could help in any way possible,” she explains.
Anya discovered that the majority of the girls had been stolen from their homes and villages in Eastern Europe and sold in to sex slavery. They are raped, drugged and branded with a price, forced to sell their bodies for money by traffickers. They work under the threat that their family will be killed if they don’t. On average, girls are used between 30 – 50 times a day, earning their pimps upwards of $250,000 a year. Some members of the police are customers, meaning that the girls can never trust the authorities, as it may put themselves or their families in serious danger. Only 1% of people are saved from sex trafficking and there are more than 45 million people still in slavery around the world.
“I knew I had to speak to them in person,” adds Anya. “I didn’t want to make some bullshit. I wanted to make something real that reflects the lives of these girls. They told me the most horrendous stories that, honestly, would turn your stomach. They changed my life.”
Anya reached out to charity Stella’s voice to help tell the story of these women. It was important for Stella’s Voice that no element of the story was exaggerated.
Mark Morgan, European Director at Stella’s Voice, says: “It’s a very emotive topic and easy to sensationalise. What Anya has done so well with this film is to tell the emotional story of these girls without the dramatizing the reality. There’s several key things the film deals with. Firstly, many are ignorant to the origins of these girls and how they end up in this situation. A lot of people think that there is something they have done to ‘bring it upon themselves’ – which just isn’t true. The film also highlights the vulnerability and helplessness that these girls experience. They don’t have the means or resources to get out of this situation. It’s a massive issue. Making people aware of this is so important in the journey to preventing slavery. It’s scarily closer to home than we would like to know or understand. That’s the reality of this and ‘A Girl Of No Importance’ portrays that brilliantly.”
When crafting the film, Anya worked in close partnership with Homespun editor Phil Currie to put the final narrative together.
“I can’t imagine editing this film with anyone other than Phil,” says Anya, “not only because he is a brilliant editor but because he worked on it with such passion and energy, always coming up with great ideas to getting the best possible film.”
Phil comments: “This was a particularly special project to be involved with. Whilst this story is fictional, it’s a harsh reality for thousands of people. When I read the script, I knew I had to be involved. I’ve worked with Anya before, she’s an amazing director and I knew the story would be powerful.”
To tell the story in an authentic way, Anya cast the leading role in Eastern Europe, despite shooting in Italy.
“Sarah Pennacchi, my producer, really backed me on this , even though it was much more difficult to cast in Eastern Europe. I wanted the actress to be Eastern European for this to be real. We only had five girls in the casting session. We didn’t want to look at anybody else. We wanted a great actress, also someone who had a real connection with the story. Eastern Europeans have a history of this. In some cases, those who are the most destitute are spied on. Young children are watched until they grow up and then they are stolen into prostitution. They are born into it. Sometimes someone within the family will sell their own relatives on to sex traffickers. It’s actually happening and it’s mind-bending,” she concludes.