Thursday, October 27, 2005
HUMAN TRAFFICKING ON LIFETIME
The miniseries Human Trafficking on Lifetime was just a little disappointing.
The acting, by Mira Sorvino was fine, and Donald Sutherland played a serviceable, though familiar, version of his (not so) gruff cop whose heart is really in the right place. Several of the actresses playing victims were made to look so similar I was never completely sure which was which. The most interesting acting is by young Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, who plays a 12 year old American girl kidnapped in the Philippines. However, she plays the least believable character, a saintly child who ministers to all the other enslaved children.
The writing was just uninspired, and the film kept pulling its punches. This is a story about sexual slavery, but we could learn as much from any cop show and a one sentence description of the problem:
Children are kidnapped and sold; pretty girls are kidnapped and sold; or duped into essentially kidnapping themselves and then sold; the people who run the brothels are vicious.
The one sentence description of the solution is more dubious:
A dedicated employee (Mira) will push her bureaucratic, do-nothing, but ultimately humanitarian boss (Sutherland) to allow her to make the life-threatening, nearly super-human effort (including going undercover) necessary to break up this huge, multinational, sexual slavery enterprise, more or less all by herself.
None of the important confrontations in the story are really allowed to be fully dramatized. Sexual situations are suggested, but not shown. Dramatic situations are set up, but then the scene stops, and the drama is not allowed to play out. The only real emotional moment, significantly, comes when Mira Sorvino argues with her boyfriend about whether the picture of the bad-guy really looks really evil.
Of course, this is Lifetime TV, and for some the merest suggestion of the horrors of sexual slavery is barely watchable. For others, it's just right: in fact, there are reports this was the highest watched movie this year on ad-supported basic cable. Judging by the comments on the Lifetime site, this program does make people, who would not otherwise know about it, aware of a serious problem that does exist, and has been the subject of a number of stories in the New York Times, although the exact number of victims in the US is in some doubt.
I can imagine a Lifetime Miniseries about a producer of Miniseries on Lifetime who writes and produces Miniseries about very serious problems, to which he/she has a deep emotional response, but to "protect" his/her audience he/she just keeps suppressing his/her real feelings and serves up a bland, safe version. (Note: It is not dramatically correct, or powerful, to do that, even if it may well be politically and commercially correct.)