Movie: Trade of Innocents (2012)

Why is self righteous indignation the preserve of the White West? Only if Edward Said was around to watch this film.

Cambodia. Child prostitution is rife. Since the local officials can’t deal with it, they hire an American human trafficking expert to clean up their house. He has personal interest in the matter after he lost his young daughter to kidnappers (in the US, surprisingly) when he was on duty in Afghanistan.

So it begins. No one in Cambodia wants to do anything about it. “You Americans don’t know anything about the Asian culture. The best way to survive is to remain silent”, tells the Cambodian police chief who is deputed to the American agent to assist in operations. “You think by capturing one criminal you can change the system?”, he asks again of the American later in the film.

Nearly all local Cambodians seem to be indifferent to the problem of child prostitution which should suddenly ignites massive levels of indignation and sorrow in the human heart. Those few who seem to want to do something about it are staff of the American agent and, one would think, doing it for money. Their good motives if any do not find expression in the film’s narrative. Moreover, only one grandpa and his granddaughter who put some resistance are shown to be Cambodian-Americans, who left America for Cambodia after some family tragedy befell them.

To give some credit to the film and on a positive note, it does show us how acute poverty turns out to play its role. Even those few girls who are rescued eventually leave rehabilitation centres to go back to brothels so that “they can provide for their families”. Compulsions of basic survival probably blinds parents who are depicted as willing to sell their daughters to traffickers without a hint of pain and a trace of shame.

Even if I ignore old school Orientalism and judge it by the merits of good film making, it still falls way short of anything worth applauding. It’s a blandly linear plot with oversimplified scene of the capturing of the ringleader. Happy ending!! I’d say 1/5 but I’m generous  so 2/5.


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