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Preview: "Fatal Promises" at SUNY Potsdam

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Fighting for the abolition of modern day slavery is the subject of a new film that will be show at SUNY-Potsdam Thursday afternoon. Filmmaker Kat Rohrer will show and discuss her latest documentary, Fatal Promises. The film contains interviews with U.S. State Department, Congress, law enforcement officials and experts involved in the so-called war against human trafficking and modern day slavery, such as activist Gloria Steinem and actor Emma Thompson.

Kat Rohrer spoke with Todd Moe about her film, which she hopes will give a voice to modern day slaves.

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Todd Moe
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Fatal Promises, Rohrer hopes, will function as a, “wake-up call and call to action.” She wants it to resonate with people, and make them aware of what is occurring throughout the world today. One of her goals is to get more people involved in combatting human trafficking and modern day slavery.

The film includes stories from survivors, which Rohrer says was hard to get, because not many people want to share their experiences. Rohrer believes that victims are “worried for their safety, but they’re also worried of stigmatization.” She says they need more stories to put a face on human trafficking, and to do this we as a society need to create an environment where victims feel safe.

Even though stories are a major part of the film, Rohrer said she wanted to include other things as well. She did this by contrasting the stories with the ignorance of politicians and sometimes the public, along with showcasing the lack of political will.

Rohrer and her team have been working on the documentary since 2004, and finished it in 2010. Although awareness has grown on the issue, ignorance has led to misconceptions, which allows human trafficking to grow. She says there has barely been a dent made in it.

“We think it happens somewhere else. We think it happens on the other side of the globe. And that’s not the case. It happens in New York and Potsdam, it happens everywhere… The problem is we are not aware of it, and we don’t see it, and we don’t see the signs. So more people need to see the signs, more people need to be aware, more people get active.”

The tour’s goal is to get young people at college aware, engaged and active against human trafficking. It can only be stopped by getting the general public involved, says Rohrer.

Most of the country has anti-trafficking laws—expect Wyoming—the problem is implementing those laws. She says it is a very complicated crime, because it is hard to prove if the survivor doesn’t have enough facts or doesn’t want to be part of the prosecution.

The response to the film has been great, with a lot of people turning out. She says its good to see that students realize human trafficking. exists, but they don’t know enough about it. “It is a very overwhelming issue, but we have to start somewhere.”

The film will be shown Thursday at 4 p.m. in Kellas Hall, room 105, on the SUNY Potsdam campus. It is free and open to everyone, and is sponsored by the Department of Sociology, the SUNY Potsdam team of Arts and Sciences, and the Sociology Club. There will be a discussion following the film where people can learn more and ask questions.

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