Holly (Guy Mosche)
Guy Jacobson is a New York lawyer and investment banker, who in 2002, visited Phnom Pehjnh in Cambodia. While there, he was approached by young girls, ages ranging from 5 to 7 years old, who offered their bodies for sale. In a sense, he was Patrick, the lead character in this new feature film “Holly,” who vows to save one girl from this horrific way of life.
This film is the first in a series of three film planned by Jacobson’s organization, all of which take a hard and heartbreaking look at the incomprehensible world of child trafficking and child prostitution.
Most layers and investment bankers have little background in filmmaking, but the plight of these children must have gotten underneath his skin, and he couldn’t let go. But it is amazing what can be accomplished when one has their mind set. Teaming with director Guy Mosche, the two wrote the screenplay, which feels so natural, you almost feel as if it is a documentary where the subjects were living their lives unknowingly under the scope of a camera a lens.
They also managed to pull in talent the likes of Ron Livingston, who was perfect for the part of Patrick, a somewhat tortured soul, living life day to day as a card shark with no real direction or purpose. He gets a bit more on track, so to speak, when he’s hired by his friend Freddie (the last performance for actor, Chris Penn), who deals in stolen artifacts.
Patrick is not new to the poverty of Cambodia, having lived there for some time. But he’s survived by keeping to himself with his head down and in a continuous glass of beer. One day, fate intervenes and he sees the eyes of a 12-year old girl Holly, and knowing her fate, is determined to save her in whatever way he can.
Holly is still a virgin, a prized commodity, and has yet to succumb to this life of prostitution. She has tenacity, and Patrick calls her “stubborn” for doing what she wants. In fact, she is even more determined that he is to free herself by running away from the brothel that bought her from her parents. We learn that this practice is one of survival for families in Cambodia, but is not foreign to other parts of the world as well.
One might ask how parents can do that to their children. When Patrick goes in search of Holly, he asks for guidance from a local man, who encourages him to just drop it. “These people already have a reservation for hell. They care about nothing. Your life? Maybe five dollars?” In reality, they are the poorest of the poor.
Although Holly got away, she was soon in the hands of another brothel, and this time she wasn’t able to escape. After she is taken to bed for the first time, the stubborn little girl is gone, and she falls in line with the other girls of the house.
Fate and circumstance play their part again, and Patrick finds her once more. But this time, she treats him like any other prospect. It takes a trip to a hotel and him standing her under a cold shower before she becomes Holly again, collapsing and crying into his arms. In a sense, their roles are changed at this point. Holly’s fight for her life pulled Patrick out of his haze, and now he was doing the same for her.
There is no happy ending here. That would be doing a disservice to the film, to those who watch it, and to the tens of thousands of children living in these conditions today. The truth is not often pretty, tied up with a nice bow of ever after. In order to right a wrong, knowledge is required, along with hope and determination.
The film is an amazing achievement in all ways: though the acting, including Thuy Nguyen who played the part of Holly (her first lead role), the cinematography, and the script, which wasn’t dense with dialogue, but told the story clearly and succinctly.
Taking incredible risks, the film was shot right in the K11 red light district where Jacobson was hit with the epiphany that global awareness through film would be his way to drive action against child sexploitation. The foundation, RedLight Children Campaign, was born out of this grassroots initiative, as was the “K-11 Project,” which is the series of film by which Holly is a part.
The films to follow includes two documentaries: The Virgin Harvest that uses an undercover HD camera to “reveal the warped reality in which children are sold and smuggled across borders in order to entertain pedophiles from around the world; and The K11 Journey, which follows a group of international filmmakers over the course of three years as they struggle to use film to capture and expose the terrifying reality of the child sex trade in South East Asia.
The film opens Friday, April 4, at Starz Filmcenter at Tivoli.