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Shining a Light on Human Trafficking

Community Dignity
February 11, 2013

Soka Gakkai International-USA's (SGI-USA) Culture of Peace Resource Center in Santa Monica in collaboration with U.S. Fund for UNICEF will host a screening of the documentary film, Not My Life, narrated by Glenn Close, and an expert panel discussion to engage the public in a conversation on the global challenge of human trafficking and the inspiring capacity of survivors to heal from the experience. The free event will take place on Saturday, March 30, 2013, at 4:00pm at the SGI-USA Culture of Peace Resource Center (606 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica CA 90401). Free parking is available in the SGI-USA parking structure on 6th Street between Wilshire Blvd and Arizona Ave.

Not My Life is the first documentary film to depict the passively and physically violent practices of human trafficking and modern-day slavery on a global scale. Filmed on five continents over a period of four years, Not My Life unflinchingly, but with enormous dignity and compassion, depicts the unspeakable practices of a multi-billion dollar global industry whose profits, as the film's narration says, "are built on the backs and in the beds of our planet's youth.”

The film is the latest by director Robert Bilheimer whose previous films on timely social, cultural and humanitarian challenges of our time include the 1989 release Cry of Reason, an Academy Award-nominated feature-length documentary that tells the story of South African anti-apartheid leader Beyers Naude. Since its premiere at Lincoln Center in New York City on January 19, 2011, Not My Life has been welcomed as an invaluable addition to the global effort to raise awareness of human trafficking. It has been praised by film critics and NGO leaders alike as a powerful tool for influencing normative attitudes about the issue of human trafficking on a societal-level through a global distribution campaign that encourages screenings in homes and classrooms, corporate and NGO conferences, government and law enforcement trainings programs, and film festivals and community events.  On the film website, Bilheimer states, “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.”

The March 30, 2013 screening of the film at the SGI-USA Culture of Peace Resource Center in Santa Monica in collaboration with U.S. Fund for UNICEF will bring this dialogue to the community-level with the aim of inspiring attendees to think creatively about this issue as global citizens. The film screening will be followed by a conversation with an expert panel moderated by Lesford Duncan, Global Citizenship Fellow at U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “The panel discussion will shed light on human trafficking both in the United States and abroad and provide attendees with ways to take action to help end this horrific practice.” says Duncan. 

Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from Maria Suarez, a survivor of the earliest reported case of modern-day human trafficking in the United States. “I want to use my personal experience to alert others and to help them avoid the same hole I fell into,” says Suarez. “I used to blame myself for what happened to me, but now I advocate for prevention and encourage others to talk and look for help.”

Joining Suarez on the panel will be renowned advocate and recent administrator to the Orange County Human Trafficking Taskforce, Sandie Morgan. "When we begin to understand our role in driving demand for child trafficking, we will confront our own responsibility and begin the serious task of ensuring justice for children exploited in our own neighborhoods or across the globe,” says Morgan.

The Culture of Peace Resource Center in Santa Monica is one of six centers in the United States opened by Soka Gakkai International-USA with the support of former United Nations Under-Secretary-General Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury.

Soka Gakkai International-USA is a socially engaged Buddhist community promoting a culture of peace.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.


Image: Promotional image for the film, Not My Life.
Credit: U.S. Fund for UNICEF


Watch the Trailer


CNN Interview w/ Not My Life Director Bob Bilheimer from Worldwide Documentaries on Vimeo.


Watch the 30-minute version of Not My LIfe.




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