The following is a reflection about The Pink Room, a documentary Adrienne and her husband produced surrounding the story of a young girl who grew up in a brothel in Cambodia. To find out more about The Pink Room, which features and honors the work of Agape International Missions, go to www.thepinkroom.com, or visit the Facebook page.
This girl wrinkles her nose up when she laughs. When the spotlight is on her, she gets a little embarrassed, ducking her head down and to one side, smiling. She loves fashion—bright colors and patterns, and designs clothes for her friends. She is an young but independent, successful business owner, doing just that.
Can you picture her? Can you see her in your mind? Is she walking in the misty air of San Francisco or on the wet pavement of New York City? Does she have a Starbucks in hand? An adorable vintage briefcase and thick knitted scarf draped about her?
This beautiful young woman’s name is Mien. She lives in Svay Pak, Cambodia in a small roofed and walled home that she is very proud to call her own. She walks down the dirt road among the scratching chickens to reach the tailor shop that she owns, where she makes a very decent living that she uses to support her mother and siblings. She is respected in the community, but this was not always the case because Mien spent many years of her young life living in a brothel as a sex slave.
When my husband and I first found out that we had the opportunity to produce a documentary about Mien’s story, we were excited. We were overwhelmed. We were full of anticipation and vision. I dropped Joel off at the airport with all his camera gear and kissed him goodbye, but when I picked him up a couple of weeks later, he had left a part of himself there, in Cambodia, and in a way, he has not been the same since. After the year we spent working on the documentary, neither am I.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mien face to face, but she has changed me; she has widened my view. Getting older, growing up, it all presses in on you and turns the pottery wheel. You change shape and take form in ways you cannot anticipate. When looking at an issue as complex and painful as child sex slavery, the breath pulls up out of your lungs. The mind races, then stops altogether before it turns off and battens down the hatches. It prepares for the fifty foot wave of reality towering over you, waiting to wash in and carry your innocence away. Then when you try and channel that experience through an artistic medium, it seems both impossible and unbearable.
This is how I felt, all those late nights, watching footage of Mien and girls just like her in Cambodia. In some supernatural, and very minimal way, I have been connected with her experience and her pain. As we have crafted and formed this film, I can see the child version of myself there, with them. These little girls play games in the streets with their neighbors and have crushes on boys. These little girls cry when their feelings get hurt and draw pictures in the dirt. These little girls are captured, sold, and raped over and over again, for a majority of their childhood.
I say this because it is important for me to understand that I am Mien. We are these little girls, because we are all women, and their cause is our cause.
Their cause is my cause.
Being a part of making The Pink Room has ruined us, in many ways. It is both easy and hard to do the day to day of the abundant American life when your eyes have been opened to the world and what it is facing. More than anything else, it has made us feel small—so, so incredibly small. In 2012, The Pink Room was accepted and screened in twelve different film festivals and has received twelve awards. Mien’s face and story have touched countless souls and has redefined courage, womanhood, and healing to many through film.
When discussing art’s ability to communicate across social and cultural barriers, Mallika Sarabhai, a dancer, politician, and women’s rights activist in India, said that “in a world that is so hard to change, we need a language that makes it through.” Art is an underground river in all of us that connects us to one another and it is so wide and so deep that in some capacity, everyone is an artist. We can produce art for mere entertainment and pleasure or we can carry it as a banner with a message. In this case, our humble work of art carries Mien’s reflection of overcoming victimization and represents the millions on our planet that are victims of human trafficking.
That river will grow wider and the waters will rise higher as we connect to the world and share ourselves through artistic expression. While we’re at it, we can each carry the banner of something or someone that perhaps, cannot carry their own.
We hope you’ll now take a moment to watch the trailer for The Pink Room…
Image via The Pink Room