San Leandro, Calif. — Actress Lucy Liu has made a 20-minute dramatic short about child trafficking in India, based upon a true story. The film, titled “Meena,” is harsh, violent and unsparing, and at times difficult to watch. National Award-winning actress Tannishtha Chatterjee stars as Meena.
Meena Haseena was abducted by her uncle at the age of eight and sold to a brothel in Bihar, where she was forced into sexual slavery for over a decade. While in captivity, she gave birth to a son and daughter. Although the children were taken from her at birth and her daughter, Naina, also forced into prostitution, Meena was later able to rescue the children after her own harrowing escape.
Liu was inspired by a chapter in Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s bestselling nonfiction book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” Liu shot the film on location in India in 2010 over five days, and it premiered June 26 in New York City. Its disturbing content made it a hard sell, she said.
“The earlier feedback we received was that the content was too strong and that viewers would feel uncomfortable with the aggressive nature of violence in conjunction with children,” Liu explains in a blog posting on the New York Times site.
“The premiere of ‘Meena’ this week was truly transformative. I felt excited and reinvigorated to be surrounded by an audience who were not only engaged by the film’s message, but also curious about how they can become more actively involved in learning about child protection.”
“The story of ‘Meena’ is not about victimization or surrendering to fear and degradation, it is one of pure belief, strength and perseverance,” said Liu.
The rescue of Meena’s children was made possible by the efforts of a social worker, Ruchira Gupta, who started Apne Aap in Mumbai’s red light district and has gone on to start chapters of the nonprofit in Bihar, Delhi and West Bengal. Today, Aapne Aap partners with UNICEF’s anti-trafficking efforts.
Although “Meena” marks Liu’s directing debut, it is the third in a series of human trafficking-themed works that includes a feature-length documentary called “Redlight,” which aired on Showtime in 2010, and the short 2009 documentary “The Road to Traffick.” Liu works with the directing/writing duo The Sibs and producer Kerry Girvin.
Liu is an Emmy-nominated television and film actress who currently stars on the CBS detective series “Elementary.”