Can you tell me about your current project?
Aimee: “John” is a feature documentary I’m directing about two human trafficking survivors, Michelle and Nik, who discuss their abuse and the connection to organized crime. We began production on this film in January 2013, and we’re now looking to raise completion funds to bring the film into post-production. We’re working alongside the Majestic Dreams Foundation, my 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit that I founded to end all forms of abuse by bringing awareness through various mediums such as film.
Michelle: The documentary will tell my life story and what I’ve survived as well as the anti-human exploitation and anti-human trafficking work I’ve been involved in over the last three decades.
What do you hope this project will achieve?
Michelle: After so many decades telling my story, my health is fragile and so I’ll be moving onto other projects that are dear to me – still related to the issue of human exploitation – but they don’t take as much physical strain or jeopardy. By telling my story this one last time, my personal life experience and the love I have for my children will be on record so they can hear and judge for themselves. We have been estranged for many years with only limited contact – my punishment for leaving organized crime.
It is also my hope that the citizens of the world will learn from my life and work and be motivated with a righteous anger and use the knowledge they have gleaned from viewing ‘John’ to earnestly make the effort towards making the world a safer place for all of our children in this generation and generations to come.
Aimee: My hope is to bring awareness and shed light not just on human trafficking in America, but to open people’s eyes to the severity of abuse. Our goal for the survivors is to help them in their personal healing and we hope this film will help other survivors, knowing they are not alone, and perhaps sharing their stories for the first time and reaching out for help.
Who is the target audience?
Aimee: I’d say teen to mature.
What message do you want the audience to take away with them?
Aimee: The message I want the audience to take away with them is this is not a new problem. Abuse has existed since the beginning of time, and this documentary is not showing something new. Human trafficking is not something that just started, it isn’t some new fad or trend. Human trafficking is an extension of abuse and an example of severe abuse.
Michelle: It really does not take much to be helpful. Not everything is for the government, churches or organizations to do. Neighbours helping neighbours, family members being kind and loving to one another, people taking responsibility for their own actions is fundamental to a secure survival of a strong society. We as individuals and the collective society are too educated and empowered today to state we don’t know about the evils that exist in our circle of influence, nor can we use our childhood or lack thereof as permission to hurt others. Whatever has been done wrong fix it. We have a responsibility to live up to our greatness. We do that by loving ourselves and one another.
What research was required in order to get this off the ground?
Aimee: Some of the research has included background investigations, which I can’t go into at this time due to the sensitivity and nature of the production.
Michelle: I can share from my own perspective, from when I started my transformation from victim to survivor then advocate almost thirty years ago. At that time, there wasn’t much information available to help make that metamorphosis. Dear Abby was still alive, so I wrote to her. A pamphlet about date rape and becoming a young woman that she sent to me was all the information I had to go on at the time. I called helplines, prayer lines and talked to what leadership I could find but so many people in leadership were raping me where I lived, it made it difficult. I felt conflicted with each conversation. I was able to educate them, but they couldn’t help me. It just became another reason to be suicidal. Then I went on to speak at churches, youth programs, colleges, corporate meetings, TV and radio and I helped establish programs for children and families in churches across the country.
In this day and age, we have more information out to the masses as never before, but it’s pretty useless because it’s regularly confusing and conflicting. What knowledge is being put out is often many years behind the times. So I do what I’ve been doing over the past thirty years: I live, trial and error teaches me, hopefully I learn and I share that with others.
Over the years, I’ve studied a wide range of topics that relate to my healing journey, which I share in as systematic manner as possible with other advocates and the organizations I advise, hoping that knowledge will help others. It really helps that today we have a few more reputable organizations making a difference than ever before.
I recommend advocates stay informed about as many humanitarian and family issues as possible; almost everything relates back to exploitation and human trafficking. Likewise, ironically, I have had to study myself. Everything I normally do on a daily basis now has a deeper meaning and a greater intensity to it knowing that my children and the public will see what is basically my last will and testimony.
What stage is the project at now?
Aimee: The film is currently 50% done, and we’re still in production. We’re trying to raise completion funds to conduct a couple more investigations and interviews lined up with various non-profits and law enforcement agencies.
Are you looking for people to be involved?
Aimee: We have a GoFundMe page where people can pledge funds and in return receive a “thank you”, including receiving a copy of the film on DVD and tickets for the private screening in LA, all depending on the amount of the pledge. We are accepting donations of all sizes, and no donation is too small. We need your help to make this dream possible for the survivors in this film by helping us bring this production into completion; it has been a labor of love for us.
What are your plans for the future?
Michelle: In the realm of advocacy, I’d like to continue to use social media, multimedia and writing to spread what I’ve learned over the years.
On a personal level, the medical conditions I have are each deadly; I’d like to continue to study and research the conditions and continue to work on getting well and hopefully, find a cure. I have a dark, shadowy avalanche that looms over me constantly, threatening daily to swallow me up, yet, I still have hope that I’ll live for at least another forty years or more.
Aimee: I’ll be bringing this film to completion then distributed for the rest of the world to see. After ‘John’, we will continue to work on films that raise awareness of various forms of abuse; it is up to us as filmmakers to tell these stories and share them with the world.
Where can people find out more about your project?
- Aimee Galicia Torres interview for Human Trafficking Awareness Month can be read here.
- Michelle Carmela’s interview for Human Trafficking Awareness Month can be read here and her interview about Facebook’s issue of child sex abuse images and human trafficking can be read here.
- Nikolaos Al-Khadra’s interview for Human Trafficking Awareness Month can be read here.