NEW YORK — Actress Lucy Liu stars on CBS’s series “Elementary” as Dr. Joan Watson, played Ling Woo in the hit series “Ally McBeal” and appeared in “Kill Bill Vol. 1.” Most recently, Liu has shifted her focus toward directing: her debut, “Meena,” premiered this June in New York.
The film focuses on Meena Hasina, a woman sold into slavery as a child. Liu hopes that the film raises awareness about human trafficking and leads to more aggressive legislation against and prosecution of human traffickers, she wrote in the Daily Beast.
“The premiere of Meena this week was truly transformative,” Liu wrote in The New York Times. “I felt excited and reinvigorated to be surrounded by an audience who were not only engaged by the film’s message, but also curious about how they can become more actively involved in learning about child protection.”
Liu, a UNICEF ambassador, based her film on the first chapter of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book documenting the oppression women face worldwide.
The 20-minute film tells the story of Meena, a girl who was sold by her uncle into a brothel when she was only 8 years old. For 12 years, Meena experienced traumatizing physical, mental and sexual abuse. At 20, Meena was able to escape but had to leave her children behind.
“Our film is about her tireless brigade to rescue her daughter Naina, who was taken away from her at birth and then forced into prostitution,” Liu wrote.
The tireless efforts of Ruchira Gupta, founder and president of anti-traffic group Apne Aap, led to a rescue operation and raid, the first like it in Bihar, India. Gupta had to go with national police to finally free Naina because local police were complicit with trafficking.
“The lead perpetrator depicted in our film was only recently arrested and found guilty,” Liu wrote. “What I’ve learned from this experience is that we all need to take a lesson from Meena.”
Through her film, Liu wanted not only to bring awareness to the horrors of trafficking but also depict the courage and bravery of women who emerge from it. Many of the women who escape trafficking do so because of organizations like Apne Aap. Such groups help women flee, give them a place to stay and teach them marketable skills like sewing or baking.
“Given that most women in prostitution come from marginalized castes, classes, races, religions and ethnicities, prostitution could, at best, be considered a survival strategy,” Gupta said in a newsletter. “But in the absence of any legitimate means of earning a livelihood, I would never consider this a voluntary choice.”
– Sally Nelson