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Tom Tangney

Megan Griffiths directs a harrowing, award-winning film about sex slavery

"Eden" is the name of a harrowing new movie about sex trafficking. It opens in theatres on Friday, a year after winning awards at the Seattle International Film Festival.

"Eden" is a powerful and disturbing movie about a young girl caught up in the sex trade against her will. The fact that the film is based on a true story makes it all the more compelling and upsetting for the audience. That also held true for its director.

"The fact that it's based on a true story and the person whose story it is was involved in the writing of the script - that was hugely interesting to me," says director Megan Griffiths. "For me, the number one thing that drew me in was the dynamic between Eden and the main trafficker, Vaughan, and their very complicated relationship."

The 16-year-old girl is kidnapped and drugged by her date and wakes up chained to a gurney in a kind of warehouse in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the American Southwest. She's imprisoned with dozens of other girls who are periodically shipped out to various male clients around the state, and even the world.

Griffiths acknowledges it's a tricky proposition to make a movie about sex slavery.

"There is that fine line between - you don't want to create something that's unintentionally titillating with someone, but then you also want to be depicting it honestly and not sugarcoating the situation. For example, Jamie Chung, who plays the lead, is someone who is often depicted as someone who is sexualized in the media. So when we're getting her ready to play this role and do her fitting, it was actually really difficult to find things that weren't too sexy for her to be wearing in the movie, or to find things that were slightly ill-fitting. Just to get so we had this whole idea about the fact there might be this kind of box of clothes at this facility and they may not be fitted to each individual girl, so they might just hang wrong."

That fine line does not make the film any less harrowing.

"There's zero nudity in this film which is about sexually trafficked girls, that was a big choice to make. I just felt like it was something that was unnecessary for the story and in terms of the sex and the violence I think what we did to sort of imply what was going on is actually a little bit more graphic in the viewers mind."

One of the strengths of the film is the number of moral dilemmas Eden, the main character, faces in the course of imprisonment. Should she somehow become part of the system in order to survive it or fight against it to the end. These were dilemmas the actual victim, Chong Kim, also faced.

"In Eden's case, and Chong's, there's some morally ambiguous territory that she navigates but at the end of the day she's able to help herself and few others too. So it's quite a question of whether it was all worth it or not."

Giffiths says Chong has processed the horrors of her youthful experience and also resolved her complicated feelings about her own personal handler, called Vaughan in the movie.

"She's gotten to a point in her life where it's easier to discuss this [...] it's been 20 years at this point for her. But I'd imagine the horror of it really never goes away.

"Vaughan is one of the characters that I think is most closely based on a single person. There's a lot of composites in the movie [...] but there's a person in her life that she called her trafficker who think Vaughan is mainly based on."

"Eden" can be seen on the big screen starting Friday at Seattle's Uptown Theatre and is also available on demand at iTunes and at Amazon.

Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio Host, Film & Media Critic
Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.
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By day, you can hear Tom on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and by night, he sits in the dark, making snide comments about what he sees on the silver screen.

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