Nefarious: Merchant of Souls


Here we take a look at the story of 'Nefarious: Merchant of Souls', a documentary by Benjamin Nolot, seeking to educate people about some of the key global issues and hotspots in the world of modern slavery, particularly sex trafficking.

Starting in America, Nefarious takes us through as many as 19 countries over 4 continents in order to depict the extent of global modern slavery. Focusing on sex trafficking, the film uncovers the different actors, interests and motives behind this systematic abuse of human rights. The filmmaker, Nolot, now leads Exodus Cry, a charity based in the United States committed to abolishing sex trafficking as well as the commercial sex industry. 

The film captures the watcher’s attention by mesmerizingly alternating reconstituted scenes, hidden camera shots and interviews. With Nefarious, we are given an alarming and compelling account of sex trafficking in the 21st century. 

But if you can't watch the whole film, this will give you a good insight into the breathtaking journey of Nefarious...

From Moldovan orphanages

Aiming at understanding what drives the supply side of the trafficking flows, the film begins its investigation in overcrowded post-Soviet Moldovan orphanages. Starting from the very moment the victims were abducted, we retrace the girls’ journey until they are sold, most often in developed countries. 

To Cambodia’s rural communities

After analyzing the trends of sex slavery stemming from post-soviet Eastern Europe, we are led towards South East Asia, another region from which originate many abducted victims. There, viewers discover how conditions of extreme poverty engender the breakdown of entire families where parents, out of desperation, sell their daughters to traffickers. 

And eventually to American prostitution

The documentary ends in Las Vegas at the heart of American prostitution networks. As successive (former) prostitutes are interviewed, it becomes clear that a lack of choice for women leads to as much abuse, violence and abduction as anywhere else in the global sex trafficking chain. 

Watch the film trailer below:

One documentary, multiple voices

The documentary effectively captures the complexities of modern sex slavery uncovering the different interests, perspectives and experiences that characterizes it. 

Most impressive is the span of interviewees included throughout the film. Not merely focusing on former trafficked victims recounting their experience, Nolot captured the voices of Western academics specialized in the area, psychologists explaining elements of mental illness both during and after rescuing the victim and aid workers narrating their hands-on experience with victims of trafficking. Still, most notably is the inclusion of an open face interview with a former sex trafficker, a pimp and a window owner in Amsterdam. Including such diverse views renders the documentary a compelling platform effectively delivering an account of the sex trafficking network’s operations and various actors’ involvement in that process. 

The widely praised documentary is a harsh and disturbing, yet necessary, reminder of the pervasiveness of a global network that systematically abducts women’s bodies, across race, nationalities and stages of economic development. 

You can buy or stream the film here

This blog was written by Gaby who is a research student from Europe volunteering with The Freedom Project in 2018.