Human trafficking in popular culture

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Human trafficking in popular culture refers to the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery as depicted in the media. It has been featured in a variety of popular culture forms and on numerous occasions.

Film and video[edit]

Year Title Summary
1995 Cool Devices A series of animated hentai pornographic videos released as OVA, human trafficking is part of several episodes.
2002 Lilya 4-ever A Swedish-Danish film based loosely on the real life of Danguolė Rasalaitė, portrays a young woman from the former Soviet Union who is deceived into being trafficked for exploitation in Sweden.
2004 Spartan A David Mamet film centering on the hunt for the daughter of a high ranking US official who has been kidnapped by an international sex slavery ring.
2004 Svetlana's Journey Based on true events,[1][2] Michael Cory Davis's film depicts the trials of a 13-year-old who loses her family and is sold to human traffickers by her adoptive family. Drugged, raped, and forced to endure continuous abuse by her "clients" and traffickers, she attempts to commit suicide, but survives.
2006 Ghosts A documentary by independent filmmaker Nick Broomfield, follows the story of the victims of the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster, in which smuggled immigrants are forced into hard labour.
2006 Holly An American film about a 12-year-old girl, sold by her poor family and smuggled across the border to Cambodia to work as a prostitute in a red light village. The Virgin Harvest is a feature-length documentary which was filmed at the same time.[3]
2006 The Unknown Woman An Italian film by Giuseppe Tornatore centered around a Ukrainian woman caught in the human trafficking and sex trade.
2006 The Virgin Trade: Sex, Lies and Trafficking A documentary by Stuart Kershaw exploring international sex tourism in Thailand's red light districts.
2006 Human Trafficking A TV miniseries imitating real life events.
2007 Eastern Promises A film by David Cronenberg featuring a British midwife who unravels a gang of Russian slavers when she seeks relatives to a baby of a sex slave named Tatiana.
2007 The Sugar Babies A documentary film by Amy Serrano which highlights the plight of Haitian victims of human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. It was produced by Claudia Chiesi, Constance Haqq, Thor Halvorssen Mendoza and funded by the Human Rights Foundation, The Fund for a Just Society, The Crowley Children's Fund, The Pujals Family Foundation and The Nord Family Foundation.
2007 Trade An American-German film which deals with human trafficking out of Mexico and a brother's attempt to rescue his kidnapped and trafficked young sister. It is based on Peter Landesman's article about sex slaves, which was featured as the cover story in the 24 January 2004 issue of New York Times Magazine.
2007 The Jammed An Australian film portraying human trafficking in Australia.
2008 Call + Response A documentary and concert film combining contemporary musicians' performances with an investigative report on worldwide human trafficking including hidden camera footage from brothels in Thailand.
2008 Taken A film by Pierre Morel and starring Liam Neeson, wherein the main character's daughter and her friend are taken by traffickers in Paris. In his quest to find his daughter, the movie depicts foreign girls in Paris who are "trafficked" with the purpose of forcing them to prostitution.
2009 Redlight A documentary film about human trafficking in Cambodia that premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival[4]
2010 The Whistleblower A Canadian-German-American biographical crime drama film directed by Larysa Kondracki, written by Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan, and starring Rachel Weisz.[5] The film portrays proven and recorded real life events which occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina to an American police officer (Kathryn Bolkovac) from Nebraska while working as a United Nations Peacekeeper contracted by Democra Corp., a pseudonym for a present American military contracting company DynCorp, which was then made into a movie. Dyncorp has also been accused of rapes, murders and underage child sex trafficking in Latin America and countries like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait and the Ukraine.[citation needed]
2011 Nefarious: Merchant of Souls An American documentary about human trafficking written,[6] directed, produced, and narrated by Benjamin Nolot[7]
2011 Not My Life A documentary film about human trafficking and contemporary slavery[8]
2012 Abduction of Eden An American film based on the story of Chong Kim, who was kidnapped and sold into a domestic human trafficking ring in the mid 1990s. The film's main character, Eden, a young Korean-American girl, is abducted near her home in New Mexico and forced into prostitution by a domestic human and drug trafficking ring located outside the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2014 Kim's story was reported to be false by the non-profit organization Breaking Out.[9]
2017 Stopping Traffic A documentary film directed and produced by Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, a Jain monk, Iraq War veteran and child abuse survivor, and the team of Siddhayatan Tirth's monks. The film explores the extensive reach of sex trafficking and sexual abuse especially of children in the USA and worldwide. It features interviews with child sexual abuse, sex trafficking survivors and veteran activists, and commentary from social service agents, doctors, academics, and young activists. It as well features talking points by celebrities Dolph Lundgren, Governor of the State of Mexico Eruviel Avila Villegas, Jeannie Mai, and Kristen Renton.[10]
2018 Traffik An American film with a plot involving a gang of sex traffickers.
Dimanasus Prophecy A movie by Dzmitry Vasilyeu addresses human trafficking in Eastern Europe.[11]

Literature and publications[edit]

(Alphabetical by author's last name)

  • A 2006 Punisher story arc called "The Slavers", written by Garth Ennis, dealt with the horrors of human trafficking and sex slavery.
  • The 2009 play, She Has a Name, by Andrew Kooman,[12] winner of the Scripts at Work/Alberta Playwrights Network Award[13]
  • The 2009 novel, The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  • The 2009 novel, A False Dawn, by Tom Lowe (St. Martins Press, ISBN 0-312-37917-X) depicts the horrors of human trafficking in the U.S.
  • The 2008 autobiography, The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam[citation needed]
  • Terry Lee Wright's novel, River of Innocents[14] follows the 17-year-old Majlinda into the world of modern-day slavery, where she struggles to hold on to her humanity and to help the stolen children around her survive.

Music videos[edit]


(Alphabetical by series)

  • Sony TV's Indian series Crime Patrol, based on true events, has covered this topic.[citation needed]
  • Criminal Minds episode 6.24, "Supply and Demand", addresses a human trafficking ring that abducts stressed-out college students.
  • The CSI: NY episode, "She's Not There", showcases the horrors of human trafficking when a Russian tourist is murdered and a girl went missing.
  • Everyone wants to be with Marilyn, is a prime-time soap opera produced by RCN Televisión, in a partnership with UNODC Colombia, which informs millions of viewers about human-trafficking within the context of sexual exploitation. The final part of the show follows the story of a young woman who travels abroad thinking she will become a model, only to end up working against her will as a prostitute. Marilyn, in the meantime, sets up an NGO that assists victims of trafficking and offers support to women wishing to abandon the world of prostitution. The soap opera's main male character plays a UNODC staff member who is working on a national campaign that is part of its Anti-Human Trafficking Project.[16]
  • Graceland (TV Show) season 2, anti-human trafficking and anti-sex trafficking groups.
  • The TV miniseries Human Trafficking (2005) by Christian Duguay stars Mira Sorvino, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Carlyle and tells the stories of a 16-year-old girl from Ukraine, a single mother from Russia, an orphaned 17-year-old girl from Romania, and a 12-year-old American tourist who become the victims of international sex slave traffickers. Sorvino and Sutherland are the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who struggle to save them.
  • Inhuman Traffic (2005) is one of numerous MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) documentary specials that addresses human trafficking.
  • The European series Matroesjka's deals with girls from ex-Soviet countries, who have been deceived into sex slavery in Belgium.
  • A character from the anime television series Symphogear (2012), Chris Yukine, was abducted by a gang in South America after the deaths of her parents in a civil war. She was forced into sex trafficking at the age of seven. Chris was freed six years later by the UN's intervention in Val Verde and subsequently transferred to Japan, only to be kidnapped again by main villain Finé upon her arrival. Finé further abuses Chris emotionally and sexually, and Chris shows symptoms of Stockholm syndrome towards Finé.
  • in the Canadian/UK TV drama Sex Traffic (2004).
  • Human trafficking (women trafficking) is portrayed in the Brazilian soap opera Salve Jorge (2012).
  • The second season of crime drama The Wire (2003) revolves around the discovery of thirteen dead women in a shipping container in Baltimore port, and the subsequent investigation.


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  2. ^ "せどりのリストはこう作る!". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  3. ^ Holly, (archived from the original on 2007-10-21).
  4. ^ Timothy Malcolm (29 September 2009). "Actress Liu hopes 'Redlight' raises awareness of sex trafficking". Times Herald-Record. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  5. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (20 August 2009). "Trio join Weisz for indie 'Whistleblower'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
  6. ^ Dan Preston (28 June 2012). "Nefarious: Merchant of Souls". Godculture Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  7. ^ Jamie Rake (28 October 2011). "Nefarious: Merchant of Souls". The Phantom Tollbooth. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  8. ^ Caitie Daw (2 March 2009). "Director speaks on human rights". The GW Hatchet. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  9. ^ Schmader, David (4 June 2014). Chong Kim, the Woman Whose Allegedly True Story Served as the Basis for Megan Griffith's Film Eden, Denounced as a Fraud. The Stranger.
  10. ^ "Film spotlights human trafficking as Trump promises action". AP News. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  11. ^ Vasilyeu, Dzmitry A. (23 July 2011). "Dimanasus Prophecy". Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  12. ^ Mark Weber (9 December 2009). "Local author unveils adventurous and original tale". Red Deer Express.
  13. ^ Mark Weber (14 July 2010). "Author explores plight of Malaysian refugees". Red Deer Express.
  14. ^ River of Innocents. Written Leaves. 13 May 2008. ISBN 978-0-9801990-0-0.
  15. ^ "Soul Asylum - Runaway Train Let's stop Human Trafficking". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  16. ^ UNODC (2005). "Colombian soap opera raises awareness about human trafficking".