Dr. Ruchira Gupta wins Empowering Women and Girls Award at SR Socially Relevant™ Film Festival NY 2018

-- Award given at 3/19 Spotlight Panel on women and gender equality (with UN)
-- Other panelists: Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Simone Monasebian, Felicia Greenfield, and Jessica Vale
By: SR Socially Relevant™ Film Festival New York
L to R: Vale, Hunt, Armani, Gupta, Greenfield, Monasebian
L to R: Vale, Hunt, Armani, Gupta, Greenfield, Monasebian
NEW YORK - March 20, 2018 - PRLog -- [NEW YORK, NY] SR Socially Relevant Film Festival 2018 (SRFF 2018) presented Dr. Ruchira Gupta with the Vanya Exerjian: Empowering Women and Girls award on Monday, March 19 at Cinema Village. Dr. Gupta is the founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide and is the producer of the Emmy Award-winning film 'The Selling of Innocents'. The award, named after SRFF founder Nora Armani's late cousin is awarded annually to filmmakers who use their platform to advance women and girls' causes worldwide.

Dr. Gupta was given the award for the work she has done as a journalist in exposing the world of sex trafficking and its link to prostitution in India and around the world, and for the work that her organization, Apne Aap, has done in saving girls from trafficking and prostitution and re-establishing them in the world. Dr. Gupta helped present the Award in 2016 to Myriam Zaki the filmmaker/ reporter as part of SRFF 2016 awards. Now it was her turn to receive it.

The program began with a curated selection of short films in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and specifically SDG 5 (gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls). Some of the films came from the repertory of the UN Multimedia, and some were from the Apne Aap collection of films made by women rescued from the red light districts of India.

An engaging yet sobering discussion and Q&A on the international sex trafficking industry and sexual violence was conducted in the packed theatre by Armani and the other panel members. Having come from a wide range of backgrounds both as activists and artists, the panelists lent their unique perspectives to the discussion.

Among the other panelists were Ambassador Swanee Hunt, founding Director of the Women and Public Policy Program; Simone Monasebian, Director New York UNODC Office; Felicia Greenfield, actor, activist (Homeland, House of Cards); and Jessica Vale, filmmaker, activist (Small Small Thing).

Dr. Gupta says, "As a journalist, I covered war and famine and hunger and conflict - but I had never seen this kind of deliberate exploitation of one human being by another as in sex trafficking and prostitution … There are 16 million victims of human trafficking in India as I speak, of which 10 million are victims of sexual exploitation. The average age of a girl being pulled into prostitution is between nine and 13 in India. In the United States, I've been told, it's between 13 and 15 - so not very different."

Ambassador Hunt added, "Most people think about the United States and wonder, 'who are all those women from Africa or Latin America or Asia who are brought in,' but actually it's American women and girls who are trafficked, by the FBI and UN definition [a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age] …  In the United States, in fact, we have an enormous problem. One in five men in Houston say they have bought a woman or a girl online - they have no idea if she's 18 or not."

Director Monasebian had this to say: "It takes a lot of time to build something in the UN, but It can happen. In December of 2015, under [US Ambassador to UN from 2013 to 2017] Samantha Power, we had for the first time an actual security council presidential statement on trafficking, and a survivor [Nadia Murad] for the first time testifying in the security council … What we really need is for all of you to put a lot of pressure on the UN to make sure that we do even more.  The more pressure you put on me, the farther I can go."

Actor Felicia Greenfield on how people who aren't involved in large organizations can make a positive impact: "As I became more aware, got more involved, and went to more events, I would always hear someone ask in an audience, 'What can the average person do to help?' … one of the answers always is talk about it. Start talking about human trafficking. It's the fastest growing criminal enterprise worldwide; it's the second most profitable; it is tremendous, it is everywhere, and it is here."

Jessica Vale, director of the trafficking-focused documentary 'Small Small Thing', on her role in these issues as a filmmaker:  "We were going to go to the orphanages where these young girls were that had been raped and exploited, but you know the reality of that was that we didn't have the kind of experience to do that. What [we filmmakers] needed to do was make a film, tell the story, make it as a tool that we could then give to organizations that are on the ground working on this issue."

The Festival also screened a slate of films related to women's rights later Monday evening, including the French film 'Tampon, Our Closest Enemy', by Audrey Gloaguen, and 'Free Period', by Alison Piper of the United Kingdom. Visitwww.ratedsrfilms.org for schedules, film synopses, and filmmaker bios.

The rapidly-growing, social-issue based festival is now in its fifth year. SRFF is a multi-faceted event that embodies the cultural values of New York and the world. SRFF 2018 showcases 70 films across an array of platforms from emerging, international and local filmmakers. There will be several spotlight programs, industry workshops, and panels on different regions and issues.


SR Socially Relevant ™ Film Festival New York is a 501(c) 3 non-profit film festival founded by actress Nora Armani. The Mission of the SR Film Festival is to shine the spotlight on filmmakers who tell compelling, socially relevant™, human interest stories, across a broad range of social issues. The festival was created as a response to the proliferation of violence and violent forms of storytelling in media and entertainment. SR™ believes in the power of cinema in raising awareness towards social issues and promoting positive social change. During its first four years, the festival showcased 207 films from 35 countries. Submissions are received from all over the world.

For more information about SRFF 2018 events and sponsors, as well as past festival editions and sponsors, visit www.ratedsrfilms.org.

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