In my other life, I work in the film industry. Recently I had the privilege of working on the film "Trust," written and directed by David Schwimmer, starring Oscar nominees Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis and relative newcomer Liana Liberato. But this movie is not a comedy, as you might assume. Far from it. It's a film about internet predators, adult men manipulating underage girls in order to rape them, and what happens to the victim, her family, and her community in the wake of an assault. But the movie doesn't just tell this story. Schwimmer, who is on the board of directors for The Rape Foundation for Rape Treatment Center of Santa Monica, is taking the film a step further and using his work to further theirs. When asked why he became an advocate for the Rape Foundation, Schwim said, “I thought I could maybe give voice and give presence and get guys to see that it is their issue and it is their responsibility... I realized that these are our girlfriends, our wives, our daughters, our sisters, so it’s as much a man’s issue as it is a women’s issue.”
His new film lets viewers behind the scene of the crime with powerful performances by Keener and Owen as the unsuspecting parents and a 14-year-old Liberato as the victim, who make it very real, very personal, and very hard to watch. But in a good way. My work required me to watch the movie many times over. Each time I squirmed, shuddered, and cried as 14-year-old "Annie Cameron" is lied to, groomed, and manipulated into meeting 30-something predator "Charlie," played by Chris Henry Coffey, who convinces her via a teen chatroom that he is a teenager and in love with her. Eventually, he rapes Annie in a seedy hotel room.
The story isn't an action flick about a heroic dad beating up his daughter's rapist. It isn't about Annie confronting the man who raped her. It's about real lives almost destroyed by sexual violence, how healing is not instantaneous, and how everyone has a role to play in the process, even if they don't get it right at first. And that's why I like it.
I have to give kudos to Schwimmer for paying attention to the details in a case like this and the actors for giving life to subtle and difficult themes, like the differences in how men and women handle traumatic events. The film even touches on the hyper-sexualization of children in media because Owen's character is a marketing executive working on a teen/tween clothing campaign. At one point in the film, he looks at all the half-naked models in his ads posing as underage kids and becomes physically ill, realizing his daughter's rapist could very well be fueled by such images.
I highly recommend abolitionists see this film. You will definitely learn more about how pimps coerce young girls into the trade from the Annie/Charlie relationship. The film premieres at the Toronto Film Festival today and will eventually feature in PSA's and educational materials used to further The Rape Foundations work. More info on theatrical release coming soon.