Guy Jacobson, a New York investment banker, while traveling through Cambodia in 2002, was approached for sex by about fifteen 5 to 7 year old girls and witnessed first hand the realities of the sex slave industry. 5 to 7 year old girls. Fifteen of them. At a time when they should have been in school, kindergarten or first grade, learning the basics of language and math and fundamental social skills, these girls where soliciting Mr. Jacobson for sex.
One of the girls told him, in broken English, "I, yum yum, very good." The term "yum yum" means oral sex. After answering her with a no, she tells him, "I no money today, Mama-san boxing me." He gave the little girls a few dollars to take to the brothel owner so that she would not beat them and knew that he needed to act, that he needed to do something to bring to light what he had experienced.
After a year and a half of research and being horrified by the realization of how widespread this problem is, he decided to utilize his production company, Priority Films, to make a film from the POV of the victim.
"Holly is really a compilation of a number of the children I met and spoke with in the brothels." From there he went back to Cambodia, to brothels and gathered information, talking to the workers and customers, under the guise of being a customer. Mr. Jacobson, who served three years in the Israeli military, admits that the 4 - 5 weeks spent in the brothels was not the smartest of ideas.
A year later, he started writing the script. Jacobson wanted to stay away from the typical Hollywood melodrama. He said that writing the script was difficult, he wanted to make sure that it wasn't preachy, that the film wasn't too explicit, but maintaining a feel that was gripping and compelling, that it pulled audiences in, while not exploiting the subject matter.
In 2004, Jacobson and the film crew went to Cambodia to film. "We were stupid and didn't realize how dangerous doing this film project in Cambodia was. As trafficking and child prostitution is very profitable business, there were many that would benefit tremendously if we didn't make the film."
The production, that includes the international cast of Ron Livingston, (the late) Chris Penn, Virginie Ledoyen, Udo Kier, was challenged by the Chinese mafia, local organized crime, brothel owners and the government, the police and the military, who wanted them to leave. The production had to be protected by over 40 guards with automatic weapons the entire shoot. The film was shot in K11, the district notorious for its pedophilic offerings that project took its name from. Many scenes were shot in actual brothels.
Critically acclaimed, "Holly" has been making it's way through the film festival circuit, filling to capacity (and often over filling) the venues in which it has been shown.
"Holly" is the initial film to be released from the K11 Project to raise awareness for The Redlight Children Campaign. In addition to "Holly", the K11 Project contains, under its banner, the two documentaries, "The Virgin Harvest", which documents the experiences of child sex-slave survivors, and "The K11 Journey", which gives a behind the scenes look about the entire K11 Project. This is the most complete film project on the issue of child sexploitation to date. This human rights campaign was started to give people the knowledge to fight sex-slave trafficking, to raise awareness so that countries will create and, most importantly, enforce stricter laws on those who commit these crimes and to help decrease the problem by decreasing the demand. "If no one is willing to pay money, or there are less people willing to pay money for all the different forms of child sexploitation, then by definition, the supply would decrease".
"Now you can't say you don't know, you can only say that you don't care", Jacobson says is one of the mottos of the project. He hopes that by intertwining the K11 Project with the grassroots Redlight Children Campaign, the decision to act, once knowledge of this epidemic is gained, will be an easier one.
"The Redlight Children initiative has specific action items that fall into three categories: what new laws need to be passed, how to better enforce current legislation, and how to allocate resources in a better and more proportionate way to deal with the problem." These action items are looked to be enacted on a country-by-country basis. The campaign has gained the support of major international law firms, as well as major and grassroots international and national human rights groups. Jacobson feels that he is the least likely to be pursuing this project, it doesn't touch him directly, he has no children, no nieces, no nephews. But once he had those little girls, whose heads barely reached the tip of his tie, aggressively solicit him for sex, and some, actually reaching to touch his crotch, he felt the issue became personal.
The US State Department has set up a Trafficking in Persons report which ranks countries by three levels according to there human trafficking reputations, 1 being designated for countries with good records to 3 being designated to countries with horrible track records, with 2 falling somewhere in the middle of that.
A few years back, Cambodia was ranked at the bottom of level three moving into a level four, which, of course, doesn't exist. Needless to say, it's reputation was (is) not a stellar one. Today, it is at a level two. The government has made progress by arresting foreign pedophiles coming into the country, establishing sex trafficking police units, and enforcing sexploitation laws.
For more information about Holly and the K11 Project, as well as The Redlight Children, visit www.PriorityFilms.com and TheRedlightChildren.org.