With a new short film, Jonathan Fung turns his lens on human trafficking.
Call him a modern-day abolitionist, Jonathan Fung says. Because what we’re talking about when we’re talking about human trafficking is slavery—mostly women or children, often for sexual exploitation. By some reckoning, as an illegal industry, it’s second only to the drug trade in terms of profits. And it’s that lucrative side, as well as the appalling moral compromises at stake, that are at the heart of Fung’s new film, Hark.
|Visit the Hark website for more information. See a trailer for the movie below.|
Fung is a lecturer in the communication department at Santa Clara. He first learned about human trafficking in depth through a conference several years ago. The father of a daughter who was 4 years old at the time, Fung found that his awareness of this scourge wasn’t something that he could let go of. He first crafted his visceral reaction into an art and video installation in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Titled Down the Rabbit Hole, that 2009 work presented a shocking, heart-wrenching look into child sex trafficking.
With Hark, filmed in San Francisco last year, he brings to bear the director’s capacity for empathy, tackling a dilemma of a man pushed to extremes. The character Seth, played by Canadian actor Aaron Blake, is a man so deep in debt that he turns to human trafficking as a way out—purchasing a young girl, played by Fung’s own daughter, second-grader Ayla Rain Fung. The film then explores what happens when a man who hasn’t lost all of his scruples confronts what he is doing—and has to reckon whether it’s too late to stop.
For Fung, the film is ultimately one that tries to open the possibility of sacrifice, redemption, and forgiveness. “I believe we can use the arts to bring a consciousness to modern-day slavery,” he says. “We are a visual culture, and film and the arts can serve as a scholarly medium to educate, challenge, and mobilize a community.”
The film also draws upon the contributions of alumni Brian Green ’11, who filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary about the film; grip and driver Alex Pelfrey ’11; and casting director Katie Galli ’11. Students involved with production included costume designer Grace Kinder ’12, key production assistant Chloe Fitzmaurice-Shean ’12, production assistants Ali Aslam ’12 and Sandy Navarro ’12, and Drew Kells ’12, who served as a stand-in for Seth.
Hark premiered June 1 at SCU’s recital hall, followed by a discussion with a panel of law enforcement personnel and others involved with work to prevent human trafficking. Fung wants to bring the film to middle schools, high schools, and churches to broaden and deepen the dialogue—and, he hopes, erode something of this scourge on society.