Documentary Review: ‘Stopping Traffic’

Review by James Lindorf

“I had my first sexual encounter at 4-years old” the opening line to Stopping Traffic, the feature film debut of Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, sets the tone for the next 79 minutes. Things definitely get darker as the film progresses before ending on a message of hope. Shree is a Jain monk, U.S. Army veteran, international speaker, author, activist and victim of childhood sexual abuse. Having taken a vow of monkhood, the Los Angeles native turned to Kickstarter and enlisted dozens of volunteers and supporters in order to bring her vision and mission to life in this powerful non-profit documentary. Shree was able to enlist the help of veteran activists, front-line rescue/aid organizations, and celebrities including, Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables), Jeannie Mai (The Real) and Kristen Renton (Sons of Anarchy). Shot in the U.S., Iraq, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam Shree’s white robe is a stark contrast to the ominous alleyways of some of the world’s most notorious red-light districts.

Stopping Traffic is told in three parts. The first seeks to define just what human sex trafficking is and how it works. The second part is a series of firsthand accounts from both victims and former traffickers. The final portion consists of ways YOU can become involved in the fight to end human trafficking. Even though they provide nearly a dozen ways you can make life better for the approximately 27 million victims around the world it isn’t enough to completely undo the soul-crushing done during the first two parts of the film, so don’t expect to leave in a good mood. I find the third section of the film to be a bit preachy for my tastes but I am sure others will find it appealing.

Without thinking about it, the experts featured in Stopping Traffic may have touched on the fact that this film could have trouble finding an audience. They discuss how people don’t want to talk about the subject of trafficking because it is too difficult, I take that to mean many people may not be willing to sit down and watch this movie. Which is a shame, because even though the film is raw, it is powerful and inspiring and deserves to be watched. I think as she progresses Shree will become more confident in her shot selection and her planning when it comes to capturing undercover footage. She has already mastered the most important element of making a documentary and that is to make an impact. The information I learned and the stories I heard during this film will stick with me for a long time and I don’t think a filmmaker could ask for much more. Even if you don’t think you can make it through the whole film everyone should watch the third act and learn what they can do to help make the world a safer place.

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