'X-Files' star combats human trafficking in new film 'Sold'
By Jason Fraley
WTOP: April 21, 2016
WASHINGTON - The truth is out there - even when it hurts.
"X-Files" star Gillian Anderson is using her television fame to combat the horrifying issue of human trafficking in the new film "Sold," which opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center in Fairfax.
Based on a novel by Patricia McCormick, adapted by Joseph Kwong and Jeffrey D. Brown (who also directs) and executive produced by Emma Thompson, the film follows a 12-year-old girl who risks everything for freedom after being trafficked from her mountain village in Nepal to a brothel in India.
"Art is a very, very powerful and effective tool," Anderson told WTOP. "By getting to observe the experiences of one girl, she becomes the voice of the millions who don't have a voice and the millions who don't have a choice in their lives. When people are moved by film, they are often moved into action. It's very difficult to see this film without asking the question at the end: What can I do?"
How did Anderson herself get involved?
"I got a call from my good friend Jeffrey Brown, who asked whether I would get involved with the movement behind the film," Anderson said. "At the time, there wasn't really a character in it for me. By the time they ended up filming, they had created a character based on a real-life humanitarian photographer called Lisa Kristine. But that's a small aspect of a much bigger campaign."
The campaign is now spreading the word with the hashtag #TaughtNotTrafficked.
"The campaign is essentially to end child trafficking, to spread awareness globally about the industry of it," Anderson said. "It is the third-fastest growing black market industry in the world. They estimate that 1.8 million children a year are sold for sex trafficking. It's a $150 billion industry, the human slavery industry, and this film is. . . a talking point that can be screened in theaters around the states."
If you don't see the movie in your local listings, head straight to the film's website and request a screening in your hometown. If you can get 65 or more people to attend, you're guaranteed a screening. Or, if you're a teacher, there's also a school version you can show your students.
Anderson says viewers might be surprised to learn this atrocity is going on in their own backyard.
"It's so easy for us to dismiss topics when they feel like they're seas away from us, which is enough of a motivation to get people galvanized anyway," she said. "There are children who can be trafficked for sex, boys and girls from as young as 3, 4, 5 years old to 16, 17, 18 years old in every city in America. We've got stories of survivors in Washington D.C., in Atlantic City, in New York City, in Iowa."
She is in a unique position to shine a light on the world's darkest corners, due to her fame from "The X-Files," which is now reaching a new generation of fans thanks to the series' 2016 revival on FOX.
"It's uncanny actually," she said. "I was at Legoland with my kids a couple of weeks ago, and a father came up to me with his 14-year-old and said, 'I want to introduce my son to you. He's a big fan of the show'. It's almost like this rite of passage. Really young kids not just discovering it through the new season, but going back and watching the old ones. They're getting really addicted."
Can you blame them? She and David Duchovny have turned Mulder & Scully into not only TV's most famous paranormal investigators, but also one of the best buddy teams in pop culture history.
"It's wild that it's been yanked back into the current conversation and that we still get to be those buddies. It's one thing to go, 'Aww, weren't we lucky,' but then to get to jump back in those shoes again and play on what makes their dynamic so appealing was quite fun," Anderson said.
She says the post-9/11 world of Internet conspiracy theories is perfect for the "X-Files" audience.
"We knew that we were making the right decision," Anderson said. "It just became about how to best give the fans what it is they've been telling us they've wanted this whole time. I think [creator] Chris [Carter] and the writers pretty much did that in the nature of the episodes they put together."
So the question everyone wants to know: is there going to be a Season 11?
"I don't know yet! They're still talking about it," Anderson said. "Like always, I'm the last to find out."
Perhaps the better question is: does she want it renewed?
"I want to for the sake of the fandom out there, and on the other hand, my old butt just wants to take it easy," she said. "I've got three kids, I live in London and I've got a lot of other commitments."
Her latest project is bringing her London production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" to Broadway.
"Blanche DuBois has been a character I've wanted to play for pretty much 30 years," Anderson said. "I helped put together this production in London at the Young Vic with my first choice of director, Benedict Andrews. And Ben Foster, an amazing actor from the states, came over and played Stanley. We were really well received, won awards and now we're bringing it to New York for a short run."
It's fitting that Anderson will channel DuBois, "depending on the kindness of strangers." The kindness of celebrities goes even farther, using fame to advance important social causes. Anderson admits she is often hesitant to get involved, but the altruism always wins out when the cause is so urgent.
"When I'm initially asked to be the voice of a campaign in some way, my instinct is, 'No! I'm not that person! It's too much! It's too intense!'" Anderson said. "We were at the U.N. today in a panel talking about trafficking and my first response wants to be, 'No, it's scary.' But the fact is this is so important, and we have to remember all those innocent voices, innocent faces behind this atrocity."
Let it be a lesson to all of us to let our better angels win out, shining a light on harsh truths.
"It's a really ugly, ugly issue, but it is there and it's happening and it's the truth,” she said.
Yes, the truth is out there - even when it hurts.