Tuesday, January 25, 2022

‘Traffik’ Director Deon Taylor on Why Sex Trafficking is Not Just ‘A White Thing’ [EUR Exclusive]

*A romantic weekend getaway spirals out of control in “Traffik,” a jarring thriller that explores the gritty world of human trafficking and follows a couple’s fight for survival.

Writer and director Deon Taylor (“Meet the Blacks,” “Supremacy,” “Dead Tone”) tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report that he never expected to “do a film like this.” And the inspiration for the project came when he and his young daughter started receiving mail/email notices warning about predators abducting kids from the local mall.

“I found out there was a trafficking ring in our area,” he says. “You always think that’s something foreign or in another country but this is domestic, and it’s a big deal.”

About six months later, Deon discovered his daughter had been communicating with some random person in the middle of the night while playing video games.

“And it was someone hitting her for information, like, where do you live? What do your parents do? What’s your address?”

The more Deon invested his child’s communication history with this online predator, who he says was “phishing her for information,” the more he was moved to pen the script for his latest drama, which is currently available on Digital and Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, and On Demand from Lionsgate.

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“The more I started researching stories that deal with trafficking, the (sadder) they were — very downbeat, not commercial. No one wants to see that. But then I watched the movie ‘Taken.’ The first one was a major hit and it’s grounded in trafficking. So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to build something in that world but based on true events?’ And that’s how the story got put together.”

“Traffik” stars Paula Patton as Brea and Omar Epps as John, a couple off for a romantic weekend in the mountains. Isolated at a remote estate, the couple is surprised by the arrival of two friends, Darren (Laz Alonso) and Malia (Roselyn Sanchez.) Just when the weekend starts to get back on track, a violent biker gang turns up and begins to torment them. The foursome are forced to fight for their lives against the gang who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.

Taylor said when the studio tested the movie with audiences, there wasn’t “a dry-eye in the room… but the moment it takes a turn, you could hear a pin drop.”

Audiences are “being educated at the same time and I think that’s what we did extremely well. I don’t think we can point to any other film that has put trafficking in this light; where it’s a commercial thriller but by the second and third act, you’re going to go… ‘Wait a minute, is this real?’ And that’s a very special thing to be able to do as an independent filmmaker,” Taylor explained.

“You can watch all the horror movies in the world, Jason, Freddy, Michael Meyers, but the minute you put something in reality, like “The Exorcist,” it’s a different scare.”

“Traffik” explores a scary subject that should have a “beacon of light shined, especially now when you’re seeing innocent kids being abducted, girls going on trips being drugged and finding themselves later in another state.”

Deon recalls a story from earlier this year about a Walmart truck driver who was arrested in San Antonio after eight bodies and dozens of suffering people were found locked in his semi-truck trailer.

“These are things that are happening everyday… right here in the U.S.,” he states.

“Traffik” forced the filmmaker to look at everyday life differently. For instance, “Girls in nail salons, where do those girls come from? Who is that young girl doing your nails who doesn’t speak English? How did she get here? What I started doing with my daughter now is pointing those things out,” he shares.

“But one of the things that ‘Traffik’ does really well is shine the light on young, minority girls who are put into trafficking. Everyone seems to think it’s a white thing. It’s a minority thing and it’s happening in a neighborhood near you.”

deon taylor - with camera

Deon’s research for this film revealed that “80% of the people that’s trafficked are minorities. That’s when you start thinking about, ‘Well, where is this at?’ Inner cities. Compton, Chicago, Oakland, Watts, Atlanta,” he explains.

“A young girl goes to a club. She meets a guy. He slips something in her drink. Three months later, she’s been in a hotel and had (hundreds of) sex partners and she has no idea what’s going on with her. Or, a guy lures a young girl, promising her gifts and different things. She goes with him and all of sudden, now she’s in a violent situation where the guy says, ‘You have to work for me or I’ll kill your family.’ If you’re 14-years-old, you don’t have the mindset to deal with that. Girls have found themselves in trafficking rings for years before they realize, ‘Let me fight this man and run away.’”

And Deon Taylor says that’s the most “powerful” message in “Traffik.”

“How powerful women have to be to deal with this and actually escape it.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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