Olken’s human trafficking expos? in
debut feature “Slave” at Facets

Erinn Strain stars in Noel Olken’s “Slave,” Nov. 12 at Facets

As Noel Olken was doing research for his debut feature last year, he found the issue of human trafficking demanded to be told. Trafficking had grabbed local headlines in recent years, with the trials of individuals who had lured Eastern European women to Chicago on promises of gainful employment, only to trap them in lives of sexual servitude.

As Olken interviewed trafficking activists, he was astounded at the scope of the atrocity, with an estimated 1 to 4 million people a year trafficked internationally in a $9 billion industry.

“Everyone thinks slavery has been extinct for 150 years and it’s not true,” Olken said. “I wanted people to know this was going on all around them. I wanted the victims of trafficking to know someone was thinking about them and trying to help them.”

Olken’s film, “Slave,” screens Nov. 12 at Facets Multi-Media. “Slave” tells the parallel stories of two women, one an Eastern European lured into sexual slavery (Erinn Strain), the other a Chicago theater actress playing a trafficked woman onstage (Krissy Shields).

“In Erinn I found a willing collaborator, a woman who wasn’t afraid to go into this dark world with me and explore it,” Olken said. “The story could touch anyone who views it, to put themselves in Tatiana’s place, to imagine their life torn apart in this way.”

Olken self-financed the DV feature for less than $100,000. The film shot for 15 days in April 2002, on some sets that were built for “Road to Perdition.” This writer co-produced along with Junko Kajino. Crew included line producer Christina Varotsis, DP Pete Biagi, editor Chris Boscardin, and 1st AD Eric Pot.

“Slave” played the Cannes Market in May. Olken plans to shoot additional footage next year in an ongoing effort to secure international distribution for the picture.

Olken spent years in the theater as an actor and director before entering the film industry. Much of his career has been in locations, including as location manager for Robert Altman’s “The Company” and assistant location manager for “Save the Last Dance” and “Just Visiting.”

Olken is currently producing director/DP Lance Catania’s supernatural thriller “Cup of my Blood” for X-Ray Productions. He’s working on two scripts he plans to direct. One is a personal story; the other is an adaptation of Richard Miller’s historical novel “Tanglefoot,” about Capt. George Streeter, the notorious gun runner whose ship ran aground off the Chicago coast after the Great Fire and became the center of a criminal district in what is now the Streeterville neighborhood.

“Slave” plays Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. as part of the IFP/Chicago Facets Film Series. Olken will conduct a pre-screening workshop at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free for IFP members, $5 for non-members. Facets is at 1517 W/ Fullerton.

See slave-themovie.com.? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com