"Call + Response," directed with no-budget commitment by Justin Dillon, is a rockumentary aimed at bringing global attention to the crisis of international human trafficking. It combines alt-rock performances (Cold War Kids, Talib Kweli, Imogen Heap) with shocking undercover footage and impassioned testimony by celebrity activists, journalists and politicians.
An open call for awareness and activism, the rockumentary “Call + Response” is a grass-roots effort to bring modern slavery to the world’s attention. Financed entirely through donations, and with 100 percent of its profits directed toward eliminating human trafficking, it’s an eye-opening look at how 27 million children around the world are being bought and sold as slaves for sex, labor and warfare.
Directed by musician Justin Dillon, the film is a no-budget, seat-of-your-pants rally for a modern abolitionist movement, boosted by celebrity activists Daryl Hannah, Ashley Judd and Julia Ormond. It’s also a labor of love for Dillon, who encountered human trafficking while touring in Russia with his band, Tremolo. With few connections in politics or showbiz, Dillon built the film (and its cause) from the ground up, recruiting equally impassioned musicians to compose and perform songs thematically linked to the slave trade.
On a smaller scale, the film resembles the star-studded TV specials that raised funds for post-Sept. 11 recovery, AIDS, Hurricane Katrina relief and cancer research over the past several years. All that’s missing are call-in donation numbers and Kanye West dissing President Bush.
What you get instead is an impassioned but visually routine combination of music, activism and shocking undercover footage of the sex, labor and combat trade, shot wherever easy profit results from luring innocents into lives of terrorized dependency.
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The music is consistently good, with some performers in the spotlight (Cold War Kids, Talib Kweli, Imogen Heap) while others (including Moby) remain in the background. Ormond, Judd and Hannah prove to be devoted and knowledgeable activists, while philosopher Cornel West dispenses his unique brand of funky wisdom, and New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof describes how his sex-trade reporting led to a personal commitment to the abolitionist cause. Former Washington state representative-turned-ambassador John Miller also speaks with authority as director of the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
How much impact “Call + Response” will have is anyone’s guess. But when you see a 4-year-old sex slave, ignoring this crisis is no longer an option.
Jeff Shannon: email@example.com