BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Red Deer has no shortage of talent in the various arts, and Andrew Kooman has proved to be no small player in the scene with the recent release of his first full-length film.
Kooman celebrated the release of She Has A Name, with the official World Premier having taken place at the Welikoklad Event Centre in Red Deer last week.
Besides Red Deer, the film was also screened in Melbourne, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; London, England and Belfast, Ireland. Screenings continue in Paris, Berlin, Ottawa and Courtenay through to Dec. 10th, which is the UN’s Human Rights Day.
She Has A Name focuses on an investigation into a shocking human trafficking incident in southeast Asia and explores the layers of corruption that enable the global commercial sex trade to thrive, at the expense of young girls’ and women’s futures.
“I was very pleased to be able to have the premier in the city where I was born and raised. The turnout was incredible and I know that the screenings in South Africa, London and Berlin were very well attended,” Kooman said.
“So far, what I’ve heard back from people who have viewed the film has been positive, almost unanimously. People are saying they’ve been very impacted by the film and I couldn’t be happier.”
The story is also based on an incident in Thailand where a storage container transporting more than 100 people ran out of gas and was abandoned. Kooman had originally penned a play with the same title several years ago and has since successfully transformed the play into a full-length feature film.
He said it was an exciting challenge to be able to tell a full, more detailed version of the story.
“On the stage you are limited in resources and cast, and I had written the play with only five characters inhabiting 10 roles. For the film, we had way more characters and were able to bring so much more to the story,” Kooman said.
“I wanted to be faithful to the story that people already loved but tell it in a bigger way. That was a very fun, exciting creative challenge.”
The film was shot in 16 intense days on-location in Thailand, with crew members from both North America and Thailand. Kooman explained there were many significant challenges with language and interpretation barriers, but also some very daunting filming locations that made the experience truly one-of-a-kind.
He said some of the film’s locations included a bar where actual anti-trafficking investigations had taken place, due to minors being trafficked through the establishment.
As well, Kooman and his team – including his two brothers, Matthew and Daniel Kooman – even filmed within a jail cell that had held traffickers and victims of trafficking as well.
“It was very gritty, and very real. We encountered in real-life the issue itself, and it’s very dark and ugly and all of that was a very unique experience to see and bring to the film,” Andrew said.
“We want people to start to imagine what this is really like. What is powerful about this film is that we were able to really give the audience a sense of what it is like to have your freedom taken from you and be forced into something that you would never imagine doing.
We want people to see the real need and we wanted people to feel the desire to be rescued from that situation.”
Andrew said according to official statistics, over two million children are forced into some facet of the sex trade and only one per cent are ever rescued.
“We want to tell an entertaining story, but also to highlight those stats and to be a part of changing those numbers.”
As part of the film’s distribution strategy, global anti-trafficking agencies will be distributing the film through their networks to ‘Fund Freedom.’ A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the film through the film’s web site will go directly to support the work of agencies to rescue and restore victims of human trafficking, Andrew said.
“It’s a really powerful distribution model, because people see the film and often say, ‘Wow I want to help, how could I do that?’ And we can tell them that simply by watching the film they have made a contribution towards helping the victims of human trafficking.”
Check out the film at www.shehasanamefilm.com.
—with files from Mark Weber