To this end, she is currently producing a transmedia project that combines a documentary film, “SANDS OF SILENCE: A Personal Journey Into the Trafficking of Women,” and a social impact, web-based game, “SOS_SLAVES: Changing the Trafficking Game.”
This is a timely campaign given that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Evidence of this global problem can even be seen on the local level. The Los Angeles Times ran an article in December about the naturalization of a 22-year-old girl from Egypt who had been smuggled into the United States and enslaved in domestic servitude for ten years by a wealthy couple living in Irvine. In 2010, a Beverly Hills recruitment agency was indicted in the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history.
“My first encounter with sex trafficking took place fourteen years ago in the Himalayas,” Alvarez-Stehle said. There she met a young girl named Anu Chari Maya Tamang who, as a teenager, had been trafficked by fellow villagers to India. Dumped in a brothel and forced to work as a prostitute, she attempted to end her own life. Thankfully, she survived the suicide attempt and 22 tortuous months as a sex slave.
“Two weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Anu Chari Maya Tamang again in Kathmandu,” Alvarez-Stehle said. “She is no longer the shy girl that I interviewed in 1997, but a fearless woman.”
In June, Tamang received the 2011 Hero to End Modern-Day Slavery award from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Tamang was chosen from among thousands of other survivors because she became, in 1996, the first victim to personally file a police report against her traffickers.
Alvarez-Stehle's current project, “SANDS OF SILENCE,” is a film inspired by the filmmaker's own experiences and those of the many other women like Anu. Selected to the PBS/CPB Producers Workshop at WGBH for documentary films, “SANDS OF SILENCE” is currently in post-production.
Alvarez-Stehle's documentaries concentrate not only on human slavery cases abroad, but also in the U.S., where it has become a national problem.
“The Internet has changed the way we live, mostly for the better, but it has given criminals new means to prey on their victims,” said Chris Kelly, the Silicon Valley attorney who was previously Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, in November. Kelly was one of the founding members of the 2012 ballot initiative Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE). The initiative was launched in Malibu this past October at an event hosted by actress Stephanie Romanov-Wechsler and producer Nick Wechsler.
While CASE seeks to curtail predators' abuse of online sites, Alvarez-Stehle is capitalizing on the popularity of computer games to educate the youth on this sensitive issue. SOS_SLAVES is a role-playing computer game in which players find ways to help victims escape a slavery situation/scenario. In the process, players become aware how, as consumers, they may be unknowingly abetting child slavery by buying chocolate from West African cocoa farms or T-shirts from sweat-shops in the U.S.
Given the sensitive subject of the game, Alvarez-Stehle sought grants and brought it non profits, such as Global Slavery Remembrance Day, as partners and fundraisers to develop this computer game. Game developers Codewalla committed to produce a prototype on a pro bono basis. SOS_SLAVES game prototype was recently featured at the Games for Change Demo Spotlight in New York and also at the 5th Intl. Entertainment Education Conference Delhi, India, at the invitation of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Alvarez-Stehle has recently launched a crowd-funding campaign and hopes to raise enough money to bring the prototype to life within 2012: http://www.indiegogo.com/sands-of-silence.
“The beauty of a trans-media [documentary and game] project is that we can get this critical message to the youth,” Alvarez-Stehle said. “Let's all join together to break the silence and change the game of human trafficking.”