The film “Sold” is a far cry from “12 Years a Slave.” Both are sobering, poignant, and discomforting, to say the least, but there’s something unshakably Hollywood about the Oscar winning Best Picture in 2014. In part, it’s because “12 Years a Slave” had a pedigree including star power and money behind it. (I’m not dissing this impressive film; it’s deserving of its acclaim.)
Important as it is for Americans to face our original sin and its continuing resonance in contemporary life, “12 Years a Slave” immerses us in the reality of slavery that took place more than 160 years ago. The film adaptation of Patricia McCormick’s novel “Sold,” with most of the Hollywood enhancing characteristics stripped away, tells a story that burns times a million about what is commonplace today.
Millions of people --mostly women and mostly under the age of eighteen -- are sold into slavery, mostly into the sex trade. “Sold” portrays a fictionalized composite from years of researched reality. It leans skillfully on storytelling sensibilities. You live the horrid imprisonment and exploitation of a 13 year-old girl along with sex workers grown older and children born from such “work.” You feel the juxtaposition of poverty and the highly profitable mechanisms that fuel a vile service industry.
Channeled so well through young actress Niyar Sakia, “Sold” leverages the indomitable spirit of the child who centers this story. The film wisely includes a few heartwarming counterpoints – not merely because it makes it possible to digest such awareness-raising about human trafficking. It suggests that the depicted reality requires some venting of hope.
Though the film takes place in Kolkata (Calcutta), India (plus some context setting in rural Nepal), know that the business of human trafficking runs rampant worldwide, very much including the USA States.
Curiously, director and co-writer Jeffrey D. Brown won an Oscar in his first cinema go round (Best Live Action Short, “Molly’s Pilgrim,” 1985). Brown has experienced a modestly successful career in 30 years around Hollywood. Consider your world-citizen conscience lucky that he chose to spend years of his life bringing “Sold” to movie screens.