By Aaron Gwin Woolf
Flying back recently from Europe I saw a young woman on the plane with me whose expression gave me pause. She had been near me when we boarded the plane and I had sensed something troubling about her; a certain barely concealed fear. What was going on? Her clothes seemed uncomfortable. Had she run to catch the plane – or was she just out of sorts? Was she afraid to fly? She seemed to be alone but kept darting her head to look behind her. She handed an Eastern European passport to the gate agent.
Once you begin to look into human trafficking, you think about it often. You realize that its victims are among us everywhere – not just on remote fields or in sweatshops, but in places where we live – on planes; in restaurants. Yet that knowledge doesn’t tell you what to do when you think you might be seeing it. I don’t know what documentaries can do to confront problems as deeply rooted as trafficking – but I do know my experience making this film has marked me.
Four hours into the flight I walked past her again and she had the same expression. Perhaps it was nothing, but I felt like I should do something even though I was clearly acting on the basis of a profile. With utter trepidation, I waited until she got up then handed her a business card on which I had written: “If you are in trouble call this number.” I scribbled the number of a NGO that works with victims of trafficking. She took the card without looking at me and put it in her pocket.