'8 Days' inspired by real stories of human trafficking

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Human trafficking, often for the sole purpose of sex, is an international problem. But statistics on trafficking vary based on who's doing the research.

The people involved with "8 Days," a new movie on the subject, believe the problem is beyond alarming. They say their movie is inspired by real stories of human trafficking. The unsettling stories are of crimes involving minors, often kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery.

"Friends of mine in town, in L.A., literally said, 'You're out of your mind. Make a documentary, just have a talking head, throw out statistics. Don't re-enact some of these things.' I said, 'We have to. We have to give the crime a face," said director Jaco Booyens.

The film takes you into the nightmare world of human-trafficking.

"Atlanta, Georgia, is the No. 1 human trafficking city in the world," said Booyens. "I want you to hear me -- not Thailand or Singapore or Shanghai -- Atlanta, Georgia. Houston, Texas -- huge -- No. 2 in the world."

Los Angeles is not that far behind. In fact, Booyens says several of the tragedies told in the movie actually happened in California but were re-located to protect the individuals involved.

"I'm saying this is an L.A. issue. It's a white collar crime. It's a middle-class crime. It's not what people think it is," said Booyens.

An estimated 30 million people are somehow involved in the multi-billion-dollar global sex trafficking industry. Booyens and the film's young leading lady are on a mission.

Through special screenings, their film will be used as a tool for human trafficking groups to raise funds to fight the crime.

"I had the privilege to be on set and work with Homeland Security investigation officers and have them tell me the reality of this crime. It was truly an eye-opening experience that I will never forget," said Nicole Smolen.

Booyens says the victims are often scared to go to authorities because they are told by their pimps, "Police can't help you. They're going to throw you in jail."

"I want to build safe houses and I want to have shelters so that these girls and boys can come and be rehabilitated because that's one of the No. 1 problems," said Smolen. "They have nowhere to go after they're rescued and no counselors that are available to help them cope with this difficult experience."

While filming with Homeland Security at the motel in the movie, Booyens says officers had to stop to handle a trafficking case two rooms down.

There is a benefit premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at The Grove in Los Angeles, benefiting Justice Speaks. For tickets, visit www.findamber.com.

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