Indie film WAKE UP delves into the problem of suburban human trafficking in cities like Dallas

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Every day or month is a new “national” day or month for something on social media, an excuse to flood our feeds with posts about meaningless holidays. While it’s all fun, the importance of an awareness day or month has become diluted among national coffee and margarita days. But these awareness dates can serve as reminders of essential causes. The independent film TO WAKE UP alerted the public that January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month with a 10-city tour.

In her directorial and screenwriting debut, actress Janet Craig and producer Kristen Wise sounded the alarm about the prevalence of sex trafficking. The drama, based on true stories, is about an unsuspecting suburban community who are shaken when they become the target of a sex trafficking ring.

The seven-year-old project premiered in Dallas on January 7 at the Alamo DraftHouse Cinema-Cedars, the third leg of the screening tour which was to correlate with National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. to raise awareness in areas where trafficking is prevalent.

“I want to wake up the suburbs and say, ‘Look, your girls are on the phone, and they’re meeting people and [there’s] technology as a means of grooming and foster children are exploited more than anything else,” says Craig, who also stars in the film in addition to directing and writing it. “We wanted to show that it’s not really about good versus evil, but about people capable of both, and I wanted to show all the types of people involved in [sex trafficking].”

As a real-life adoptive mother, Wise relied on her lived experiences. She and her husband TO WAKE UP co-producer Mike Wise, welcomed more than 100 children. In the film, Craig plays an adoptive mother whose daughter and friend are lured into a sex trafficking ring after they are accidentally introduced to a trafficker by their friend, a group home worker and former foster child.

According to TO WAKE UP press release: “In the United States, the FBI estimates that more than 100,000 children and adolescents are victims of sex trafficking and an estimated 60% of victims have been placed in foster care or in the child protection system. ‘childhood.”

The film, which won Best Picture at the 2021 Sunscreen Film Festival, shows the stark reality that sex trafficking does not discriminate based on socioeconomic status, race or gender.

“Janet and I live in the same city, Thousand Oaks, California, which is the second safest city in the United States, and I was at an exercise class explaining to ladies what we were doing, and they were like, ‘It’s not happening here, it’s happening in India,’ Wide said. “And although it is happening in India, but it is happening in every neighborhood in the United States. We want to be able to awaken people to this. We also want people to wake up [help]. Not everyone will be a filmmaker, not everyone will be an adoptive mother, but we can do something to help.

Dallas actor Matt Socia, best known for his 2014 role in Taken for ransom, plays a well-to-do gynecologist whose addiction to porn leads him into the dark world of trafficking. Socia’s role as Bob serves as an example of the avenues that create supply and demand in human trafficking.

“Sex trafficking can happen to every child, it can happen to every person in every neighborhood, and also that people don’t think about watching porn,” Craig says. “[Through Bob] we wanted to show that it’s not innocent when people do this, that the girls they watch are mostly trafficked there…we just want them to realize how they might be inadvertently participating in Trafficking.

“We wanted to show that it’s not really about good versus evil, it’s about people capable of both and I wanted to show all the types of people involved in [sex trafficking].” – Janet Craig. writer, director and star of WAKE UP

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“I want people to have grace for others too, because I often feel like people hide when they do things that are wrong because they feel like they don’t. can go to anyone because there is no safe place.”

Some young girls are lured into trafficking by the trickery of modeling agencies, which is depicted in the film and prevalent in Dallas. Last year, an adult and a 14-year-old teenager who were coerced into trafficking under the guise of a modeling opportunity were rescued from Dallas hotel sex trafficking.

Craig and Thomas hope the film will be shown in schools and colleges to reach the most vulnerable population. They intentionally kept the movie PG-13 to allow it to reach as many young people as possible.

“Our goal was to be PG-13 and what we really hope to do is get it in high schools and colleges,” says Craig. “It’s a great age to reach, so we’re just hoping to reach those kids and reach them before something happens to them.

“We didn’t want to exploit anyone in a film that’s against exploitation, so we didn’t have any nudity,” Wise says. “We wanted to keep it realistic, but something you can bring your child to, and often the imagination is worse.”

According to the DART Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Texas is the second largest sex trafficking hub in the country and Dallas is one of the top 10 cities in the country with the most sex trafficking.

The Dallas screening of the film included a panel of local activists and organizations who told viewers how to join the fight against human trafficking. Podcaster and speaker Rebecca Bender, Jesus Said Love, the Christian Alliance for Orphans and Rachel C. Thomas were part of the panel that guided the audience to action.

Thomas, who appears in the closing of the film, is a victim of human trafficking. In her closing remarks, she makes a call to action and advises the public to text “WAKEUP” to 51555 for more information on human trafficking and how to get involved. Craig and Wise advise those interested in joining the fight to visit their website to find organizations dedicated to combating human trafficking.

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