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HomeTechEntertainmentKingston filmmaker sheds light on sex trafficking in Ontario in new documentary

Kingston filmmaker sheds light on sex trafficking in Ontario in new documentary

Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On February 29, the Kingston Canadian Film Festival (KCFF) will host the world premiere of ‘Dark Highway’, a documentary created by Kingston born filmmaker Anna Jane Edmonds.

The film is focused on sex trafficking in Ontario, being led by Edmonds who looks at the “invisible crime” through a bystander lens, taking viewers along the 401 highway to demonstrate how prevalent it is all along the corridor.

Edmonds says coming into the film she knew very little about the issue she would be diving into to, and in a sense audiences will be learning alongside her.

“Someone that had no idea this was happening, had no sense how close it is to all of us, and throughout the film, I interviewed survivors, and they really lead the conversation and the narrative on what is really happening, not only in Ontario, but Canada and internationally,” Edmonds said.

“The core of the film really does focus on how this is affecting children, and how truly, truly pervasive this crime is in our everyday life… how all bystanders need to open our eyes and really acknowledge that this is happening here, and it’s happening in places that we would have otherwise deemed safe.”

Edmonds said the topic came to her through a production company in Stratford who asked for her support in the research phase, where she thought telling the story through the perspective of being unaware of this widespread problem would be an interesting way to look at it.

In that way, she says the film is less focused on the dark details of the crime and discusses with survivors what the average citizen can do to be more aware of the crime and be a part of the solution.

In approaching it that way and wanting to highlight ways to better care for the individuals affected, Edmonds says survivors felt a little more comfortable inviting her into their space and sharing their personal stories.

Edmonds said one of the most surprising things she encountered through making the documentary was just how common the crime is, and how many survivors are within our communities.

She says there are networks of survivors out there for a crime that many people don’t even realize is happening around them.

“It’s pervasive, it’s present, and I was very humbled to have been invited into spaces,” Edmonds said.

“There are survivor leaders working exceptionally hard, both locally and fully globally on this issue because it does affect a lot of people all over the world. But what is most daunting is how truly, truly present it is in Ontario.”

While the revelations in the film are startling, Edmonds says she and her co-producer Gina Simone don’t intend to frighten people to the point of feeling helpless.

She says while it’s meant to inform of the problem, it’s also meant to highlight ways that we as a general population have to do better.

It urges awareness and preventive action, but also tells audiences to listen to survivors about what they need in terms of support, and let them lead the conversation.

“Let’s listen to what the survivor leaders are saying about what they need and what isn’t showing up for them. That’s really the only way that we can help and truly understand what’s going on,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds says the people who are survivors are the ones who should be supported and empowered to lead the change.

She says the care for those survivors is currently lacking.

“I think when we talk about this crime, we can’t have conversations about prevention care and support without looking to the people that have lived and survived through it and who work on the ground,” Edmonds said.

“They are the ones that hold the keys to really truly understanding not only how to prevent it, but how to truly care for those who come out of the crime… where I found myself to be the most shocked in terms of what I think us as a society can be doing is the post care for people that do exit the crime.”

The film started out as a short, but in delving into the topic Edmonds and the team didn’t see a way to cut it down to less than 60 minutes, and so Dark Highway becomes her first feature film.

Dark Highway was supported through crowdfunding, raising $22,000 with production beginning in October 2021.

Edmonds is excited for the film to debut in the town she grew up in, and said it works out well on both a personal level and a narrative level.

“This could not have worked out better, not only just for the narrative of the film, being that Kingston straddles the 401 and is a city that a lot of us know if you travel between Cornwall and Windsor, but also because it’s my hometown and I speak to being from Kingston in the film,” Edmonds said.

“And so this was incredibly serendipitous that they are welcoming us there, not only to screen, but to premiere.”

The film’s premiere at KCFF on February 29 at The Baby Grand is completely sold out, but tickets are still available for the second screening at the festival at 4 PM on March 3.


Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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