11/16/2012 05:13 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2013

Female Trafficking: A New Film About Sexual Slavery

Female action stars are hot, but can they really save lives? Director and writer Fiona Mackenzie thinks they can. Not just in the movies, but in real life. This conviction inspired her new film, Alpha Numeric, about the chilling, real-life abduction and trafficking of women into sexual slavery, (which will be financed as a European co-production with shooting scheduled for next year.)

In a film that promises to be a hit at the box office, Alpha Numeric has a more serious message -- it attempts to bring to the silver screen the disturbing realities of female trafficking. While Mackenzie is not the first writer and director to tackle this subject, her film is based on a true story; and she hopes that the film will further mobilize support for a number political projects committed to abolishing these dreadful practices.

Years ago, when Mackenzie worked as an investigative journalist she was a sent to the headquarters of Interpol in Lyon, France, for a two-day story on trafficking. "I was fascinated by this extraordinary group of men and women, from all over the world, who function as international detectives. Interpol tracks transnational crime, across international borders. What they have to do to bring down increasingly complex and violent criminal syndicates (many of whom who have the financial resources and technology to evade capture by their local police for years) is astonishing."

Learning about the crime-fighters who fought against trafficking hit home for Mackenzie, literally. When she was a teenager in Pebble Beach, California, her British-born, 18 year-old-female cousin was abducted by traffickers in India and was never found. "I grew up with the awareness that traffickers operate in all countries, and victimize women of every age, race and economic background," Mackenzie explains in a West Village café near her writing studio in New York.

The plot of Alpha Numeric draws on Mackenzie's journalistic investigation of Interpol and of the thousands of women, who continued to be trafficked throughout the subterranean world of organized crime. The subject will certainly make for a gripping, action-packed thriller. The film centers on Tea Baker, a New York Times journalist, who is sent to Moscow to investigate female trafficking, and who along the way encounters Marc Rollings, a seasoned Interpol agent. The chemistry between Baker and Rollings adds a romantic twist to the storyline, and in so doing subtly evokes comparisons between Alpha Numeric to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Bourne Identity franchise.

Yet, Mackenzie remains committed to making this movie into a vehicle to alert audiences to the tragedies of human trafficking. Just as abolitionists 150 years ago turned to the novel in order to advocate for the ending of chattel slavery, Mackenzie has turned to film to expose the horrors of this modern day form of sexual slavery. "The laws need to change and clamp down so that traffickers are put away for years, not just months." Mackenzie explains. "No one should have to live their life on earth, enslaved as a sexual commodity. It's heart breaking. It is inhuman, and it is time for it to end."

For more information on Fiona Mackenzie and her company's other film and television projects, go to

Jim Downs is the author of Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the CIvil War and Reconstruction. He is currently a Visiting Researcher at the History of Science Department at Harvard University.