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A New York journalist opened the eyes of his fellow citizens to the extensive and devastating trade in human lives – young women and girls trafficked for a terrible life as sex slaves - that is going on in the house next door. His work has been used as a basis for German director Marco Kreuzpaintner’s first English language feature: Trade. Andrew L. Urban reports.

Based on New York Times Magazine reporter Peter Landesman's investigative article The Girls Next Door (2004) on the international sex slave trade network, Trade is a fictionalised story in which 13 year old Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), is kidnapped in Mexico City, joining another kidnap vicitm, Polish teenager, Veronica (Alicja Bachleda-Curus). They are transported to the US by Manuelo (Marco Perez). By chance, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), Adriana's 17-year-old brother, quickly realises she has been kidnapped and follows Manuelo's car all the way to the Mexican border. At the border, he meets Texas Ranger Ray (Kevin Kline), who is in the area looking for a clue to a mystery of his own - and they join forces to pursue Manuelo to rescue the women and in the process discover the extensive slave-smuggling operation based in New Jersey.

Academy-award winning actor Kevin Kline presented the film at a special screening at the United Nations in September 2008 to promote awareness about the alarming and largely unknown problem of girls and young women being trafficked.

"gut-wrenching and alarming and disturbing"

Kline told reporters that the film gives viewers an idea of how trafficking networks operate "not only behind the scenes but ... in plain sight in these residential neighbourhoods. All around the world it's happening and people see it but they're not aware of it," Kline said. "The movie is gut-wrenching and alarming and disturbing, as it is meant to be."

The house at 1212 ˝ West Front Street in Plainfield, N.J., is a conventional mid-century home with slate-grey siding, white trim and Victorian lines. Employees at the local Westside Convenience store told Landesman how "cars drove up to the house all day; nice cars, all kinds of cars. Dozens of men came and went. But no one here knew what was really going on. And no one ever asked.”

Landesman’s extensive reporting provided the film’s background; underage girls and young women, abducted in Eastern Europe or Latin America, are smuggled into the United States through Mexico – as in the film.

"debut American feature"

Produced by Roland Emmerich & Rosilyn Heller, Trade is the debut American feature by young German director Marco Kreuzpaintner, written by Jose Rivera and Peter Landesman.

* This is one of several articles by Urban that have been commissioned for ‘Mafia’, to be published internationally by Millennium House (late 2009) exploring the history of organised crime around the world throughout modern history.

Published August 6, 2009

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