Stolen Lives: Children in the Sex Trade 1999
Distributed by Fanlight Productions, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Still Water Pictures
Directed by Shona Miko
VHS, color, 88 min.
Date Entered: 11/09/2018Reviewed by Christopher G. Lewis, American University Library, Washington, DC
I can't escape feeling a twinge of shame in critiquing a videotape that exposes the evils of teen prostitution. A topic that involves the ruin of many lives, it is relatively easy to evoke sympathy for the individuals. However to tell anything short of a frank and thorough story risks trivializing the topic. This videotape does, in fact, leave quite a bit unexplained and contents itself with teasing viewers with a string of anecdotal snippets that merely reinforce the theme that child prostitution is a despicable crime.
What the tape does serve to do is open the viewer's eyes and ears to sound bites from several former child prostitutes discussing their experiences in Vancouver, British Columbia. They reveal enough to grip the viewers interest but the filmmakers give us little more than a glimpse. There are untold stories of abusive parents, community rejection, teenage pregnancies, street survival, brainwashing, and the struggle to escape.
The 1984 documentary, Streetwise, also set in the Pacific Northwest, covers much of the same ground and is more effective in large part because the viewer is given a chance to learn about the films subjects and develop attachments to them. Stolen Lives looks like it was constructed from about ten interviews cut up into snapshots and strung together with a variety of cutaways intended to evoke the grittiness of the street.
There are also several brief segments of individuals speaking on behalf of recovery programs but they are given little more than lip service. The details of their programs are discussed minimally and are not shown in operation.
This program would be effective as a call to action to the people of Vancouver but its structure is not coherent enough to appeal much to a broader audience and therefore it is not generally recommended.