Tour Diary – Day Seventeen – Chermside Event Cinema

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We’ve been hitting some big cinemas the past few days; as the screen sizes grow, so are the audiences it seems. Certainly the snowball seems to be expanding as people get to know about it and tell others. Great to see!

The Event Cinemas in Qld have been sterling so far compared to the cinemas down south when it comes to attentiveness and helping us out. They are also cheaper and have big screens and good facilities so kudos to them (and shame on those cinemas in Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney who were either difficult or, in the case of Sydney’s Reading Cinema, forget we were booked altogether!).

I’m always less certain about how much feedback we’ll get when it’s a general audience situation so it’ll be interesting to see how the Q&A plays out. The film is winding up now so we’re up in a sec….

…and I’m back. Well, it wasn’t a quiet crowd; lots of questions from all over the shop. I’m always impressed with the thoughtful ponderings…I’m so pleased that we’ve created some work that gets people thinking! Tonight especially it seems people were moved to help as we were approached from different professionals armed with business cards wanting to help out in any way they can. One person said: “you suggested that we can all help using the skills we were given to fight this issue, and this is mine” and proceeded to offer us help with our marketing, something we always need help with!

Great to see our old friend Duncan there tonight and thanks to Katja for her help and support and the many folks who attended plus pre-ordered DVDs from us which is always a huge help.

Next stop, Inala tomorrow before heading to the Gold Coast this weekend. Be sure to keep an eye out on channel 31 Digital for the Destiny Rescue/Street Dreams tv spots that the station is airing for us for free! Good on em…

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Getting the final shots – trip #2 to SE Asia

 

Well, Red Earth hits the road again in South East Asia for another Street Dreams shoot. The goal of this trip is to fill in gaps in the present script and to connect with anti-sex trafficking advocate Chong Kim. As the story comes together, we are becoming increasingly confident that this is a compelling documentary. The inclusion of Chong and the chance to capture additional and fresh material will only make the film better still.

The trip will go from 5 – 17 Dec and will be mainly Thailand where we will reconnect with Destiny Rescue. Don’t forget to follow us here on our blog while we’re overseas!

For more information on Chong Kim our latest Street Dreams addition please go to www.chongkim.net, or here for information about her upcoming feature film.

All things going well, we hope to release Street Dreams in early 2012. Watch this space!

Winding up in The Phil

We’re shipping out tonight from Manila and I’m afraid to say it, but not a minute too soon. With the exception of the wonderful and generous people we have met who have been so welcoming and giving with their time (Marlene & Tony, Leon, Paulo, Elaine, Diane/Mary Jane and everyone who has been available to be interviewed), Manila really is a place that you should not spend too much time in. I suppose from our documentary’s perspective, it’s the perfect place to spend time in: plenty of depressed, slummy, dirty areas overwrought with traffic and people, struggling with poverty and corruption. Anyone else in their right mind (ie. on holiday) would avoid if at all possible!

Other than the fact that it is a shame that our schedule was a bit messy here and didn’t allow us the time to explore other areas of this country, we have managed to have a fruitful stay here, from: visiting some interesting street prostitution areas; to experiencing Angeles which is the world’s second sleaziest Sin City after Pattaya, Thailand (our destination about 3 weeks ago); visiting an exciting university which offers previously trafficked and prostituted kids a place to get a proper education; hearing the stories of some very brave abused women; shooting the first music video for Remember Seven and experiencing this journey through their eyes as well; appearing on live Filipino tv to promote what we’re all doing here; and witnessing first-hand the rescue of a young girl (who stars in the music video clip) who has the so much potential and charisma despite a very poverty-riddled existence.

We may be leaving Manila grateful for the fact that we can breathe diesel-fume-free air again soon, but we will also leave feeling grateful that we were able to hear, see and experience the stories and the people here who will undeniably change our film (and lives!) for the better.

Filipino tv appearance

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Hey folks, just sitting at the Net25 studio in Manila waiting to appear on the morning show “Homepage”. If you are near a computer, you can watch the live stream of the show at http://www.net-25.com. We’ll be sharing the stage with Remember Seven (Joy and Katie) who have been staying with us here in Manila. Check us out in a few minutes. Jason is even wearing a clean shirt for the occasion! 🙂

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The latest from Laos

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Our adventures through SE Asia continue to thrill, intrigue and impress us with the variety of exquisite tastes, beautiful sights and exciting cultures that we have been introduced to. We have travelled with Destiny Rescue’s Tony Kirwan (as seen in our last blog entry in Bangkok) to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, overland to Siem Reap via Kampong Cham to see DR’s work there, departing Cambodia far too quickly, arriving in Laos two days ago.

On many levels, each of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos have so many great things to offer and have given us a feeling that despite various degrees of poverty and corruption, they are all very much livable places that we would seriously consider leaving Australia for, at least temporarily. The challenge then would be living with what lurks beneath the sunny, easygoing veneer of this region, which of course is the reason we are here.

The work that groups like Destiny Rescue do are vitally important and become increasingly so in our eyes the more we learn about the cultural ways of these countries. Generally, it is accepted practice to force/guilt your children into labour at an early age, with this coming in the form of trafficking/selling your child in particularly poor areas. It is quite surprising how often this story has been told and re-told to us by victims. It seemed strange to us that parents lean so heavily on their children to support the family until we learned that the average life expectancy in Cambodia, for example, is 45 years(!). So many people would be ailing from illness and dying very young, thus requiring this financial support. Immediately this shines a light on poverty as a major contributor to the reason why trafficking and working in the sex industry becomes an reluctant option. There is a cycle of poverty, lack of education, health issues, abuse, drugs and police/government corruption that dictates a lot of families’ path in life here. Take poverty out though, and you fix a lot of those other things.

There is so much beauty and hope in these countries despite all this, and we have been elated to meet some exceptional people along the way. The generosity of time and spirit of the folks at Destiny Rescue cannot be overstated as they have bent over backwards to help ensure we have met and spoken to the right people, been introduced and immersed into the culture and areas they are seeking to help out the most, taken their valuable time to guide us around and ensured that we were well looked after. The local people we have met are lovely, generous and kind-hearted, leaving us with an overwhelming sense of hope and that goodness in their lives will prevail if given a chance. Everyone we have met recognises the work that we and the support organisations are doing to improve their lives, and we feel very fortunate to have been able to witness firsthand what life is, and could be like here.

Red Earth would love for everyone to be able to visit places like Cambodia, Laos and Burma to see how great they are, and why they desperately need people in wealthier countries to care enough to want to help get them on their feet (while preserving what makes them so vibrant in the first place). There are so very many people suffering through desperation of poverty that is making them do terrible things and fracturing families. Many Cambodians, for example, would make only a few hundred dollars a year in income. In the West, we have fallen prey so much to consumerism and self-serving lifestyles that we have left no room for contributing to reverse the trend of suffering of our neighbouring countries. We would encourage anyone reading this or who are already supporting our project to give a close look into the work of Destiny Rescue, particularly their 26-second project; all they ask is that you make a one-off or monthly contribution which goes to many of their prevention or rescue programmes, then – and most importantly – you tell 2 people about it. The key to combatting this cycle of poverty which leads to human trafficking is getting as many people rallying around the problem and providing support to these types of organisations who are working closely at the ground level with the local people. The relatively minuscule amount of financial sacrifice required by a person from a typical first-world country is all that is required to make a massive difference to many people’s lives. It sounds like something you’ve heard before, but it’s true and we’ve seen the work and the desperate need firsthand.

Jason and Mike head back to Thailand tomorrow via a traditional Lao riverboat along the Mekong River en route to the Philippines on Wednesday. There we will be meeting with FOCUS, another aid organisation (albeit much smaller but very close to the ground with Filipino child sex workers) and spending some time exploring this issue from another perspective.

Goodbye for now from Luang Prabang in stunning north Laos!

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The boys in Bangkok

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Two men doing great things: Tony (Founder) and Sakay (Thai President) of Destiny Rescue having some brekkie at a café on Khaosan Rd, Bangkok. Our stay in Bangkok and Pattaya has revealed the underbelly of the sex industry in the world’s most sinful zone of debauchery. While it is a mental and emotional challenge for us to experience, we’ve been able to witness and participate in giving girls the opportunity at new life away from the shackles of this seedy and heart darkening industry. There is a lot of hope in what Destiny Rescue is doing here.

Bangkok: City of Sin

Updates have been lagging of late as we seem to be burning the candle at both ends in recent days. The nature of this work means that we are combining daily travel to multiple destinations – hill tribe towns, rural towns, various cities – plus the need to visit the places that offer us a glimpse of Destiny Rescue’s essential work which is building trust relationships with brothel workers in order to lure them to a better life. This work requires late-night “bar-hopping” to the places where the girls are most likely to be, and spending some time assessing the working girls’ ages, befriending them and making a good impression before leaving. Repeat visits to bars with potential rescue victims are essential to assuring the girls that they are going somewhere better and safe with people they can trust.

No one said undercover work would be easy, but the late nights and long days do take their toll! That said, we have found Thailand to be an amazing, varied and beautiful place with friendly people and vibrant culture. This is Jason’s first visit here and my first for 16 years, so we’re just drinking in all the sights, especially North Thailand which was stunningly scenic and exciting.

We’ve just hit the one week mark here and it could easily be three as we’ve packed in so much stuff. Highlights have included having access to Tony’s jeep and bombing around the countryside & cities to our destinations that have included: a hill tribe village north of Chiang Rai; the sleepy town of Chiang Dao north of Chiang Mai in amongst majestic mountains and elephant treks; bustling Chiang Mai with it’s cool temples and old city (plus a Destiny Rescue location); Burmese border town Mai Sae and Laos border town Chiang Saen in Thailand’s infamous Golden Triangle; as well as last night’s insane bar action in Patpong and Khaosan roads, teaming with people from every country, and truly emphasising Bangkok’s reputation as “Sin City”.

No photos today; I am taking so many on my main camera but it’s difficult to get them onto my phone or internet computer when I get to use one; will have to endeavor to take more pics on my phone! So much to see here…. 🙂