Last week amid the noise of the Cannes Film Festival, a brave independent film about the atrocities of child sex trafficking, I Am Still Here, took Best Feature at the Nice International Film Festival, one town over on the French Riviera. Directed and written by Mischa Marcus and produced by Stephanie Bell, I Am Still Here, follows 10-year old Layla (Aliyah Conley) during the first 48 hours of her abduction in her neighborhood, and how she battles to escape the underground.
“During my freshman year of college, a brothel housing child sex slaves was busted in a neighborhood close to mine. Hearing this shook me to my core. I was raised to believe I live in our ‘Land of the Free,’ but that day, I discovered slavery, even of children, is still a very real problem,” says Marcus who based I Am Still Here on her exhaustive research of real sex trafficking cases. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, sex trafficking will overtake drugs and weapons as society’s most pervasive crime. Between 2012 to 2016, reported child sex trafficking cases increased close to two-fold. Many go unreported, hence that stat is just the tip of the iceberg. Eighty-one percent are abducted by their “controller” versus abductions over the internet (14%) and by phone (5%).
I Am Still Here stars Johnny Rey Diaz (Hawaii Five-O), Erika Ringor (Love & Basketball) and Ciara Jiana (Sharknado). I Am Still Here has played 25 festivals to date, collecting in sum 15 awards. Kirk Roos and Brad Brizendine’s Conduit is handling foreign and domestic sales. Recent Conduit projects include Voltage Picture’s horror movie Bedeviled from Nicholl Fellowship winners Abel and Burlee Vang, high school debate documentary Figures of Speech narrated by Chris Pine, and the doc Gold Blooded starring Discovery’s Gold Rush star Dakota Fred Hurt. Roos has produced a number of projects including Veep Emmy nominee’s cinematic canon — High Road starring Dylan O’Brien and Ed Helms and A Better You starring Brian Huskey and Horatio Sanz. Other producing credits include The Brass Teapot, and the Peter Winther sci-fi thriller Painkillers which Roos also co-wrote.