Director Jeffrey D. Brown says he wants young people to watch his film, Sold. The film on human trafficking is opening at the London Indian Film Festival

Six months and 700 audition takes later, American filmmaker Jeffrey D. Brown and casting director Tess Joseph had finally found what they were looking for – the perfect central character to play Lakshmi for the stirring film on sex slavery and human trafficking, Sold. Adapted from American author and journalist Patricia McCormick’s 2006 book of the same name, Sold follows the story of a Nepali girl who is trafficked into India. Brown says Niyar Saikia, who was cast to Lakshmi, is one of the best actors he has worked with.

Brown, best known for his work on TV show The Wonder Years and winning the Best Live Action Short Film Academy award in 1986 for Molly’s Pilgrim, is the best fit to direct a film which deals with a serious issue revolving young people. “The novel was written for young readers and we want teens to see the film. This happens to their peers and we want young people empowered to take a stand on this issue as leaders,” says Brown.

Sold has premiered at several festivals across the US and now heads to the London Indian Film Festival in July for its Europe premiere. Says Brown, “They are partnered with BFI, Cineworld and BAFTA – all amazing organisations; so it is truly a great honour to be the opening night gala film.” The opening night red carpet gala European Premiere for the festival, on July 10, will include an appearance by protagonist, Golden Globe & Emmy winner Gillian Anderson, who will be part of a Q&A session after the film screening.

The supporting cast for Sold also includes actors such as Seema Biswas, David Arquette, Tilottama Shome and Sushmita Mukherjee, among others. While Brown was the best choice for director, they found the ideal executive producer in Oscar-winning actor Emma Thompson, who is president of the Helen Bamber organization, based in London, which helps trafficked women survivors get through their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Brown says, “Emma has done yoga with survivors for years and has been involved with this issue long before we began making our film. That’s why we approached her. We knew she would be a dedicated advocate and spokesperson for the survivors of sex trafficking.”

In the light of abductions in Nigeria and the global awareness movement that was #BringBackOurGirls, Brown feels that human trafficking and sex slavery must be addressed, calling it a “human rights tragedy”. Brown adds, “I am a filmmaker who previously had filmed in two wars, Nicaragua and Beirut, nothing I saw in those wars prepared me for seeing a girl who was just rescued from a brothel. I have seen fear, but never an animal fear in the eyes of a young child like that.”

The director says he spent seven years working on a way to direct Sold, and the research didn’t stop once filming started either.

“I spent a day in a working brothel through an NGO. Actors and crew met survivors and talked for hours. We visited red-light areas and immersed ourselves in the reality of the world we were recreating. This included literally every department head from assistant directors to props, extras, casting and lighting.”

Shot in Nepal and Kolkata, Sold will also make its India premiere later this year, Brown promises. The director says, “We will release in the United States and Europe first. India will follow soon after that. The film is in English, but dialogue is minimal so that it can easily be subtitled or dubbed in other languages.” Additionally, Sold aims to go beyond the spreading awareness, to become an active initiator and contributor to fighting against human trafficking.

Brown says they are creating a campaign around the film to activate audiences to “become change makers and part of the solution to address this issue.” The director adds, “We hope to raise substantial funds with our film to channel to deserving NGOs that have proven their ability to help survivors of sex trafficking in India, Nepal and the US.”