‘Eden’: A Sex Trafficking Survivor’s Story

Award-winning U.S. sex trade drama means to move audiences to action.

Jamie Chung looks for a way to break free of a sex trafficking in the new film Eden. (Photo: Courtesy of Centripetal Films)

May 22, 2012· 2 MIN READ
Stephen Saito writes about movies for the L.A. Times, IFC.com and his own site, The Moveable Fest.

As we’re becoming more aware, sex trafficking isn’t a problem that only affects underdeveloped parts of the world. Human sexual slavery happens with increasing frequency right here in America.

Many of these stories go untold. That, thankfully, is not the case with Chong Kim, an 18-year-old Korean-American who was abducted after an encounter at a bar in Oklahoma City in 1994.

She had her future ahead of her, having just graduated from high school. Instead of going on to college or joining the workforce, she spent the next two years in captivity, prisoner of a highly sophisticated organization of sex traffickers that kept her and other young women confined to warehouses around the country. Eventually, Chong Kim found a way to ingratiate herself with her captors and plotted an escape.

“It wasn’t a film I would’ve written on my own, but I’m really happy I had the opportunity to direct it,” says Megan Griffiths, a rising star on the indie film scene who took a script penned by Kim and Rick Phillips and turned it into Eden. The harrowing drama debuted at this year’s SXSW Film Festival in March and won the Audience Award for Narrative Film. This past weekend, Eden screened in the director’s hometown, at the Seattle Film Festival.

Sucker Punch actress Jamie Chung stars as Kim (who goes by the name Eden in the film) and is pulled into a sex trafficking ring. The film describes with infuriating detail a prostitution operation masterminded by a morally bankrupt federal marshal (Beau Bridges) that caters to older men. Kim’s seemingly insurmountable plight drew Griffiths to the story.

“A lot of films that deal with this subject matter, there’s a law enforcement angle of someone coming in, swooping in and saving the day,” Griffiths tells TakePart. “In this story, it was the victim’s perspective, and she had to really be her own hero in this scenario.”

Aside from it’s socially conscious subject matter, Eden bears a seal of approval from the Seattle-based Sustainable Style Foundation, meaning that the indie production took pains to consider its effect on the environment.

“It always bothered me how much waste was generated by your average production,” says Griffiths, who notes the film’s costume designer Rebecca Luke is one of the Sustainable Style Foundation’s co-founders. “There’s a lot of different things you can do from distributing paperwork electronically rather than doing hard copies to having recycling bins on set. If you stop and think about each one of those choices as you’re putting a film together, you can make big changes across the scope of the whole production.”

The director maintains she just wants “to give the audience something to ponder” after they leave the theater, but she clearly doesn’t see her medium as a passive experience.

For one thing, real life Chong Kim, as an activist against sex trafficking, has gone on to speak out for women who have suffered the same fate.

“It’s really wonderful to think that the film transcends being a source of entertainment and can also facilitate change,” says Griffiths. “That’s something that you can only hope for.”

What films have changed your perspective or behavior? Leave examples in the COMMENTS.