Political Film Society - Newsletter #287 - October 1, 2007

October 1, 2007


Trade Titles at the end of Trade state that one million persons are transported from one country to another for sale and that at least 20,000 slaves enter the United States each year. Directed by Marco Kreuzpainter, Trade focuses on sex slaves, who account for about half of the annual total who are trafficked into the United States. When the film begins, seventeen-year-old Jorge (played by César Ramos) is giving his thirteen-year-old sister Adriana (played by Paulina Gaitán) a bicycle in a México City shantytown, but his mother forbids her from using the bike. Jorge then resumes his work at the Zócalo, the main square of the city, where he entices an American tourist with pictures of luscious Mexican girls, and then takes the tourist to a deserted part of town, where he and his buddies trap the American into giving up all his money and anything of value. While the gang celebrates that night and the following morning, Adriana sneaks out of the house in the early morning to ride the bicycle alone but is soon kidnapped. After a boy takes possession of the abandoned bicycle, Jorge spots the bike, asks the rider where the vehicle was left, and he realizes that his virgin sister is on her way to the United States unless he can do something. After he discovers that Mexican authorities are not interested in helping him, he locates the part of town where sex slaves are processed by a Russian mafia, sees his sister sold for $80 and loaded into a van, follows the van to the border, and sneaks into the trunk of a car of Ray Sheridan (played by Kevin Kline), a Texas Ranger who we later learn is searching for traces of his daughter, who was kidnapped in Texas a dozen years earlier at the age of two.

While Trade then shows how Adriana enters the United States along with several other slaves, Ray drives back to the United States only to discover that his surprise passenger has quite a story to tell. Ray decides to help Jorge, who has heard that his sister will end up in New Jersey, so the two proceed across the country. During the two road trips, filmviewers see the indignities that are perpetrated on those who are trafficked while Jorge expresses his own strong opinions about gringos who call themselves “Americans.” At one point, when Jorge and Ray are in a coffee shop, the former catches sight of an American dining together with a pubescent Thai boy whom Jorge previously saw in the same group of slaves with his sister. Ray then traps the American in a bathroom and threatens to turn him over to the police unless he divulges the passwords needed to enter the slave auction website through which the boy was purchased. When Ray seeks help from friends in the FBI, he is turned down because the agency has other priorities, and indeed a title at the end quotes a State Department policy statement to the effect that the pursuit of victims of human trafficking is not a national priority. Ultimately, the travelers are in New Jersey, across the river from New York. Jorge and Ray access the slave auction website, and are the highest of three bidders at $32,000. The next scene takes place at the house in New Jersey where a captor of Adriana and others awaits purchasers of the slaves to show up with cash. There is an unexpected ending to the saga, both in New Jersey and in México City. The story is based primarily on a true story reported in a 2004 New York Times magazine article by Peter Landesman, who is a coproducer of the movie. The Political Film Society has nominated Trade as best film exposé and best film on human rights of 2007. MH