Port Elizabeth based filmmaker, Pholile Maneli, working under Optasia released a promotion video this this week to raise awareness on human trafficking. The short film which starred youth around the bay was shot at the extravagant Isango Gate Spa.
The short film is set at a club scene that has an older gentleman who calls a pretty young girl over to his table to join him and a group of girls. The girl leaves her group of friends and joins the ladies sitting at the table, she is then told to order a drink. The older guy calls a specific waitron to the table and the waitron then takes the order and brings the girl a drink that is spiked. As the old gentleman and the young girl leave he pays the waitron for spiking the girl’s drink.
The next scene is set in a bedroom where the girl wakes up, confused and naked next to an older man. The room is full of others girls which seem unconscious from heavy drug and alcohol use. Other men are standing around the bed, she gets off the bed and her movements wake up the older gentleman who is not the same man that took her from the club. As she tries to leave she is hit by one of the gentlemen standing around the bed. The scene ends with her bleeding and passing out.
Scene two of the short film is impeccably done. The emotion of the victim is clearly portrayed and the confusion is depicted well using the camera angles, make up and the editing. Even the environment appears to be one that depicts the emotions of the victim. Cinematography elements are immaculate however the message that the filmmakers were intending to send is seemingly lost.
The message behind the film is about how one must not accept drinks from strangers in clubs, which is general knowledge, and not new information. The recent abductions of girls around the country are not happenings because the girls were at a club, they happen at any location and not necessarily at clubs. To get a stronger and impactful message the setting could have been of someone performing a mundane task as only a certain few people go to clubs. The normality of what the person is doing could have a far greater impact than the club scene as this would then appeal to a few people meaning that the film has not entirely achieved its purpose.
Films of this nature aim to educate and leave the viewer with a new perspective of certain situations. This film only revitalizes standing stereotypes on going to clubs. It does not question why the man is spiking the young girls drink but it seeks to show girls how they have the responsibility of their safety and the actions of the perpetrators. This then does not stop the action but rather calls for victims to be safe. This is extremely problematic as this is then normalising the behavior of the perpetrators of such crimes. This film also seemingly is also questioning why the girl took a drink from a stranger thus making herself an active participant in her abduction instead of making her seem like the victim that she is.
Per Maneli, the video aims to combine film and a social aspect and aims to “alert the youth in a new way” of the dangerous world.
It is a step in the right direction for filmmakers to want to send messages containing material that is community building but it is important to take angles in such topics that question standing negative stereotypes and ensure that the treat topics with sensitivity to appeal with to the affected age group. Kudos to Optasia for opening the door for more meaningful art with a message.