Long-time producer Julia Verdin's new short, shown at this year's Raindance Film Festival, is a compelling, quick look into the arcane world of sex trafficking, "inspired by the stories that broke her heart" and acts as a hopeful pioneer into the realm of a new wave of explorative films of painful exploitation.
“4.5 million people are victims of sex trafficking worldwide, including the U.S”
That’s the line which ends Lost Girls, a short, 20-minute emotive exploration of the world of sex trafficking and the victims that emerge from it. It’s an astonishing statistic, and one that doesn’t seem to be as well-known and well-accounted for as it should be, unfortunately. Sex trafficking isn’t the most popular of film themes, as it happens, and for a relatively understandable reason. It would be phenomenally hard to get the balance right between informative, concerned, revealing, and purely entertainment, voyeuristic, and exploitative. Taken mentions it as part of its story-arc, but to little detail, The Girl Who Played with Fire too, but there are very few other mainstream films which cover the subject with anything more than the eye of the voyeur.
Cue Julia Verdin’s Lost Girls, which does exactly that. Taken from the perspective of both a direct victim of a sex trafficking organisation in America, and the girl who helped capture her, herself a blackmailed victim of the organization, it explores the dark and dingy world of underage sex-workers taken from their homes and beaten to pulps by the people that buy them. Interestingly, its main revealing technique stems from contrast, taking the light of the free, above-ground world before a shot of the lurking shadows of the institute which traps the kidnapped. It utilises the theory of the abject and the other to separate this non-world from where we all know and prosper as real, and in doing that it shines a light on the irony it creates, exposing it as both a non-world and an all-too-real-world. Clever stuff, right?
And it really is inspiring to see short films using such evolved techniques. Not only that, but it does reveal itself as, more or less, powerful. Only the occasional stilted piece of dialogue or the odd laboured performance takes the emotional resonance down a notch, whilst the lack of any big budgets takes away the possibility of letting any breath-taking cinematography reflect that emotive sonority. But, for a short, it’s understandable, and perhaps even preferable. For once, this is a short film which both works as a short and appears like it would make an excellent feature. Next project then, Julia?
Lost Girls (2016), directed by Julia Verdin, was shown as part of the Raindance Film Festival 2016.