A Review of Holly
By Gillian Granoff
Recently, several notable celebrities, UN representatives, policy makers, and film industry insiders gathered together to view the screening of Holly, the highly acclaimed film starring Ron Livingston, Chris Penn, Udo Kier and Virginie Ledoyen. The screening, co-sponsored by the Somaly Mam Foundation, was held to bring awareness to child trafficking and child prostitution in Cambodia. The Foundation’s goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and restore self-esteem to the lives of young girls who have survived sexploitation.
Following the screening of the film, a panel discussion, which included the film’s producers and a representative from the Office of Migration (OMI), addressed the critical need to target this vital issue.
The President and CEO of the foundation, Somaly Mam, survivor of child prostitution, has dedicated her life to rescuing girls from sexual slavery and restoring their self esteem.
Somaly’s opening remarks at the event and her soft spoken and timid words belie the courage of a survivor whose strength and heroism have provided inspiration and comfort to the lives of many young children. Her mission is to rescue other young girls from brothels and to fight on behalf of the lives of the countless young girls who continue to endure the psychological trauma of having been abducted into the silence of unspeakable crimes.
The film is loosely based on Guy Jacobson’s own shocking exposure to the world of child’s prostitution. In 2001, as a businessman and attorney, he took time off to travel through Asia. While hiking in Cambodia, Jacobson faced a life changing moment: he was aggressively solicited for sex by a 7-year-old child, who grabbed him provocatively.
From that moment Jacobson decided that he could not turn his back on the epidemic of the crimes he witnessed, and began a two-year mission to investigate, and uncover the dark and dangerous world of child prostitution.
Jacobson and the film’s co-producer and partner, Adi, began a passionate crusade to write a film that would depict the frightening reality of lives of the victimized children. The efforts to research and write a film that depicted the grave reality of the lives of these children led to the successful closure of several brothels in Cambodia and to the exposure and prosecution of clients.
The result of their tireless research is Holly, a powerful narrative that traces the story of an 11-year-old Vietnamese girl who was sold into prostitution to a Cambodian woman by her family.
Holly’s story profiles the tragic descent into hidden shadows from an innocent naïve young girl into a tragic and provocative young adolescent whose innocence and childhood was stolen behind the dark and hidden world of Cambodian brothels. In an interesting juxtaposition, the film depicts her unlikely meeting with the protagonist, a foreign export import worker with a compulsive gambling problem and self-destructive behavior. Patrick meets Holly when he chooses a temporary room in the same brothel.
An unlikely friendship develops between them and the progression of a moving story of two people’s attempts to rescue one another.
The film’s uncertain ending strengthens its impact on its audience. The director’s reluctance to neatly tie up the ending of the film forces the viewer to wrestle with feelings of discomfort and helplessness.
This technique challenges the audience to take responsibility for ending. This deliberate artistic choice has a powerful impact. It forces the viewer to wrestle with uncomfortable emotions, and to consider the countless other children still caught in the vicious web.
The film has become a powerful instrument of social and political advocacy. Since the film’s limited release, it has played an essential role in the curriculums of several classrooms. Teachers and professors at SUNY, Manhatttanville and other schools in the New York area have attended the screening with their classes.
The film’s producers regularly lecture on the issue and participate in panel discussions on the issue of child exploitation and slavery.
Schools and teachers with an interest in screening the film can contact the film’s producers to come and speak to their classrooms. They can find more information by logging on at www.PriorityFilms.com#