Human trafficking is a social issue that is beginning to gain more awareness in Pomona, as well as all over Southern California, and police as well as non-profit organizations are reaching out to help.
On Thursday during U-hour, a screening at Cal Poly Pomona was shown of the short film, “Niña Quebrada,” (“Broken Girl”) which focused on the issues of human trafficking.
Released in 2007, “Niña Quebrada” has been gaining attention over the course of the last five years. It has won several awards including Best Short at the Santa Cruz Film Festival, Best Screenplay at the Malibu Film Festival, and Best Dramatic Achievement at the Temecula Valley Film Festival.
Kris Surber, the CPP University Police administrative services coordinator, contacted Kleiner about showing the film at CPP.
“We realized that there has been a lot of media coverage and events over the past three to six months around sex slavery and human trafficking, and I have noticed more of an effort to raise awareness about the issue,” said Surber. “Even in our own local area, this is something that we deal with right here in Pomona.”
Only 23 minutes in length, “Niña Quebrada” is a three-act short film with a powerful message. The film tells the story of a teenage girl named Lucena who runs away from her family in Mexico after being lured by her boyfriend to come to the United States to live a better life. She is convinced that he will take care of her. However, Lucena’s boyfriend abandons her once they reach Los Angeles. There, she wakes up in a nightmare, realizing she has been traded for money into the underground world of sex trafficking.
Lead actress Yvette Yates attended the screening at CPP and commented on what the experience meant to her.
“This was my first lead role, and it was the beginning of everything,” said Yates.
Yates is getting ready to release her next movie, “El Gringo,” a feature film set to release on May 11,, in which she stars as the female lead alongside Christian Slater and Scott Adkins.
Co-writer and director Jen Kleiner and the film’s editor, Robert Buttermilch attended the screening at CPP as well. In a discussion that took place after the showing of the film, Kleiner, Yates and Buttermilch told the audience their thoughts on the film’s subject-matter, and described the experiences they shared during its making.
“Being involved with this film, I became more aware of the actual situation of human trafficking,” said Buttermilch. “Many don’t realize how prevalent it is today because it’s something that’s not really spoken about.”
The cast and crew worked closely together to create a touching short film that centers around a dark issue, but at the same time, tells a moving, coming-of-age story.
Kleiner said that bringing attention to the issue has been a struggle in the past. People tend to distance themselves from the topic, so making sex slavery the focal point in a movie is a challenge and has not been done to a large extent in the film industry.
“I think that the way women are brought to this country, even today, is shocking to realize,” said Kleiner. “Indentured servitude still occurs. People all over the world are promised better lives in America, and take opportunities that turn out to be tricks.”
It was ultimately Kleiner’s intention to have the short film send a message of empowerment rather than despair.
“I hope that this film instills a sense of self-esteem,” said Kleiner. “To me, to tell a story that’s as painful and dark as this, you need to give hope and you need to inspire that people have within themselves the ability to save themselves. If we gain the skills of self-resilience, then we can find a light in any dark place.”
Jacqueline Sierra, second-year environmental biology student, thanked Kleiner, Yates and Buttermilch for making the film and coming to CPP to share it with students.
“Coming to this showing, I expected the film to open my eyes a little bit, and it did hit close to home in some ways,” said Sierra. “My family came to America from Guatemala, and I have heard my mother and grandmother talk about the kind of hardships that the film talks about. After seeing this film I have a better idea of what my family went through, and it makes me really appreciate everything they have done for us.”
As for the future, the cast and crew of “Niña Quebrada” say it is a dream to work together again, possibly on a full-length feature which, they hope, will bring even greater public awareness to human trafficking.