Filmmaker Jody H. Sanchez to Visit UCI

In the United States, slavery is something of the past. Internationally, however, human trafficking is a real and pressing issue.

The notion of slavery seems so antiquated to Americans, but the modern-day version exists as a huge, lucrative industry.

It is this matter that Jody Hassett Sanchez, who directed, produced and wrote the documentary “SOLD: Fighting the New Global Slave Trade,” will speak on this Friday, Oct. 14, at UC Irvine in a screening event hosted by the Graduate Christian Fellowship.

Sanchez brings a long resume with her — 17 years in network television news — as she prepares to present her film and speak with UCI students and professors about modern-day slavery.

Sanchez began her extensive career at CNN to help start up a program called “CNN World Report,” a show that relied on local journalists around the world rather than network correspondents to report on the most important news in their community.

“I was attracted by this idea of circumventing the traditional way that world news is usually covered by the networks, which is to ‘parachute in’ a reporter to a country where he doesn’t speak the language and has no context or background,” she said. “The reporter does a couple of live shots then gets on a plane back home, usually rather quickly. ‘CNN World Report’ proved seminal to CNN’s future international coverage because of the relationships we were able to establish in several countries. I remain thankful for the wonderful colleagues I met around the world.”

Sanchez also was a senior producer of CNN’s 24-part series on the legacy of the Cold War, and one of her final posts at CNN was as the State Department producer covering Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was the first woman to hold that position.

It was in the late ’90s that Sanchez began contemplating the portrayal of religion in media.

“During that time, I started to think about how religion and faith were given scant attention in most reporting, particularly with international stories,” she said.

“This might sound a bit odd in the light of the kind of reporting we’ve seen since 9/11. But in the 1990s, most stories were reported through geopolitical and socioeconomic lenses. The idea that folks might do anything because of their religion was often dismissed.”

After 12 years at CNN, Sanchez then took on the position of religion producer at ABC News, working with the late Peter Jennings in exploring how important faith is to people around the world.

“Peter Jennings was our big champion,” she said. “He was prescient in recognizing that religion deserved its own beat and that the important religion stores aren’t the freaky cult leader stories or even the culture wars stories but the stories that explore how faith plays in peoples’ lives and what that means.”

Sanchez is now the president of Pointy Shoe Productions (PSP), “a serious film company with a silly name that focuses on issues of faith and culture.”

As a director and producer with full control of her projects, Sanchez says that she is able to go much deeper into storytelling as she spends “weeks, months” with the people in her films.

Sanchez began preproduction on “SOLD” in 2006 with a couple issues she had in mind.

“When I was in the news business, viewers would often tell me that at a certain point, they just couldn’t watch another story about yet another problem in the world,” she said.

“I thought a good bit about this collective compassion fatigue that has set in for many of us in the West. I realized that I am not interested in merely telling more sad stories. I am interested in doing work that engages viewers and leaves them with a sense that change is possible. This doesn’t mean I’m doing ‘Hallmark happy’ films … I’m after a much more delicate balance.”

Instead of relying on the typical “slow motion shots of young girls silhouetted in brothels … with ominous music thundering over the scenes,” Sanchez portrays modern slavery in “SOLD” through personal accounts of former slaves and abolitionists.

While the imagery may not be as dramatically jolting, this approach, Sanchez says, returns the story to those who really own it — the child slaves.

Sanchez says that awareness about the issue has gained traction in recent years, and organizations like the Graduate Christian Fellowship at UCI hopes to continue that trend.

“Part of loving others is standing up to the injustice of human trafficking,” said Kate Ball, an officer with GCF. “We seek to take this stand by raising awareness on the issue and working towards the abolition of the global slave trade. Anyone is welcome [to the screening]; we would like to encourage people from all academic fields and walks of life to participate in the conversation on slavery. [We want to] bring issues like slavery to light in our community so that necessary action may be taken.”

It is local organizations like GCF that encourages Sanchez when it comes to raising awareness and combating slavery. As a person of strong faith herself, Sanchez says it will take organizations like GCF to work with others of differing beliefs, rather than fight with those who share the same goal.

Admission to the “SOLD” screening is free, and Sanchez will be speaking after.

The Graduate Christian Fellowship at UCI will be hosting the event in HIB 100 at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 14.

“It’s going to take a broad coalition of people of different faiths and different politics who are willing to put aside their differences to end slavery today, just as it required 200 years ago in the U.K.,” said Sanchez.