PLAYGROUND: the film
While traveling to the Philippines in 2001, filmmaker Libby Spears gained first hand knowledge of the horrific practice of trafficking human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. She examined a little deeper, and discovered that most of these victims were young children.
Facing death threats to be “knocked off” for only $10, Libby went undercover to infiltrate brothels in South Korea and Thailand. She held first-hand interviews with victims, their pimps, and their abusers. She mapped the trafficking routes of the sex tourism industry, and charted the commerce fueled by the purchase and sale of minors — she was disheartened to find that virtually the entire globe was involved and affected by this growing industry.
“Men fly into Atlanta, Georgia from all over the US to have sex with children they have purchased online. In a small, affluent, local golf community, the elementary school superintendent and local bookstore clerk are arrested on the same day in a sting operation by law enforcement officials seeking sex predators of children via the Internet.”
What she was astonished to find, however, was the involvement of the United States and the degree to which Americans were influencing the global demand and growth of the sex trafficking industry.
When she started filming, she mistakenly believed that sex trafficking was primarily an international occurrence in countries like Philippines and Cambodia. But a meeting with Ernie Allen, President of the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, confirmed to Libby what her research was beginning to uncover: that the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation is every bit as real in North America.
This is where Playground begins.
Playground: the film
The sexual exploitation of children is a problem that we tend to relegate to back-alley brothels in developing countries, the province of a particularly inhuman, and invariably foreign, criminal element. Such is the initial premise of Libby Spears’ sensitive investigation into the topic. But she quickly concludes that very little thrives on this planet without American capital, and the commercial child sex industry is certainly thriving. Spears intelligently traces the epidemic to its disparate, and decidedly domestic, roots — among them the way children are educated about sex, and the problem of raising awareness about a crime that inherently cannot be shown.
Her cultural observations are couched in an ongoing mystery story: the search for Michelle, an American girl lost to the underbelly of childhood sexual exploitation who has yet to resurface a decade later.
Executive produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Steven Soderbergh, and punctuated with poignant animation by Japanese pop artist Yoshitomo Nara, Playground illuminates a sinister industry of unrecognized pervasiveness. Spears has crafted a comprehensive revelation of an unknown epidemic, essential viewing for any parent or engaged citizen.
Music by: Bjork, Radiohead, Chris Martin,Blonde Redhead, Cat Power, Sigur Rós,CocoRosie, Basement Jaxx, DJ Shadow,Kazu Makino, Masato Suzuki.
Visit our page About 13 to learn about the Nest Foundation’s new initiative to distribute PLAYGROUND across North America.