South African film placed second in international competition


Filmmakers around the world made powerful public service announcement movies on human trafficking and modern day slavery for the HeardPSA campaign. The South African team impressed judges with their offering.

film open your eyes
Quentin Chong, a Muay Thai world champion, has been working in South Africa for more than 16 years. He and his team made a film, Open Your Eyes, that focuses on the effects of human trafficking for the HeardPSA campaign in 2017. (Image: Mark Wijsman)

Brand South Africa reporter
The South African film Open Your Eyes, which shows the harsh realities of human trafficking and modern day slavery, has been placed second in the international HeardPSA campaign.

HeardPSA took place to highlight “My Freedom Day” for 2017, in partnership with CNN and the Global Sustainability Network. Filmmakers around the world were tasked to submit powerful public service announcements (PSAs) relating to human trafficking and modern-day slavery. HeardPSA raises awareness of the issue.

It says 49% of trafficking victims are women and 33% are children. “There are an estimated 45.8-million people in bondage today, more than at any time in human history. More than half of all cases of exploitation involve the sex trade,” reads the HeardPSA website

“Slaves cannot raise their hand to be counted nor their voice to be heard.”

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is the act of taking people from their homes under false pretences or by force, according to Tsireledzani!, the South African government initiative to combat the crime. The term “Tsireledzani” means “Protect” in Tshi-Venda, one of the South Africa’s 11 official languages.

The programme is headed by the National Prosecuting Authority and involves government departments, international organisations and civil society partners.

People who are trafficked are taken to another place or other places — inside or outside their countries — to be exploited.

They are trafficked for different purposes, for example: prostitution, forced labour or the removal of their body parts. Debt bondage is one of the methods used to hold victims of human trafficking hostage.

The invitation

HeardPSA personally invited Quentin Chong, the Muay Thai world champion, to take part in creating a powerful announcement that would represent South Africa in the global competition, reads a press release.

Muay Thai is a form of hard martial art in which practitioners use their fists, elbows, knees and shins. Chong is known for his charity work and efforts in South Africa to fight human trafficking and modern day slavery.

“I have empowered many women and men through self-defence workshops and Muay Thai training as well as actively helping special ops teams infiltrate and take down illegal organisations involved in prostitution and drugs,” Chong said.

He has spent more than 16 years working with the youth of South Africa through his Muaythai Against Drugs Foundation. His training has ensured the participating youth are physically, mentally and emotionally aware and prepared when confronting dark situations.

The Open Your Eyes project

Chong called on South African actor Roxane Hayward to lead the Open Your Eyes project, before submitting it to the international panel of judges.

The panel included legendary music producer Quincy Jones; actor and producer Wesley Snipes; film and stage actor Joseph Fiennes; actor Olivier Martinez; and feature film and commercial director Philip Boston.

human trafficking roxane hayward
Roxane Hayward says of the Open Your Eyes project that working on something for a good cause to help raise awareness and hopefully save lives is rewarding in itself. “Coming second is the cherry on top.” (Image supplied)

She started Muay Thai training with Chong more than a year ago, Hayward explained. “I have since felt liberated and empowered when faced with situations that would have, in the past, taken advantage of me.

“Quentin made a great executive producer and together, along with the integral help of Saadiq Behardien and Farhana Parker, we created a strong concept that would serve as the main narrative for our PSA,” she said.

“I wanted to create a powerful PSA with the knowledge and skills I have acquired through my years spent in front of the camera as an actress — it was now time for me to find my feet behind the camera through writing, directing and producing.”

Because of the seriousness and importance of the subject, it was imperative that this PSA was carried out with precision, she said. “An impact needed to be made.”

Watch the film here:

Open Your Eyes showed how human trafficking and modern day slavery affected the lives of all people — all ages, sexes and races, said Hayward.

“The footage in the PSA is of real gang members, real people and real events that transpired — all fearlessly captured by Kai Linder alongside Quentin Chong, Saadiq Behardien and myself. A valiant act, carried out in order to expose the truth.”

Hayward and Chong roped in several local actors and others to participate in the project including Parker, Kosta Scholiadis, Behardien, Melissa Harribi, Benedikt Sebastian, Charles Tertiens, Kia Johnson, Charne King and Melissa Haiden.

The South African team were notified by the project organisers recently that they had come second in the international competition.

How to combat human trafficking

To prevent human trafficking, the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa advises the following:

  • The Department of Labour in your area can help you validate job offers, particularly those outside your province or the country. Any suspicious conduct by prospective employers or their agents must be reported to the police.
  • Look out for people — both men and women — who say they have job opportunities that promise you will earn a lot of money in a short space of time.
  • Teach your children to be careful of adults who try to befriend them, whether in person, through cellphone or internet chat rooms.

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