Director and Suffolk University Law School professor Kate Nace Day explains below the background to A Civil Remedy, her film on sex trafficking that has been nominated for an EMMA Award (presented by the National Women's Political Caucus).
The story of sex trafficking involves vulnerability, violence, entrenched inequalities, a shocking profitability, and the failure of law. Over the past decade, the stories of victims and survivors have emerged in published books and texts, Hollywood feature films, investigative news reports, and video advocacy projects. But it was a sex-trafficking documentary film that came into my law school classroom, charged with empathy and shock, a form of human vision. It was a gift.
I experienced the power of documentary to bring us back from law’s language to the living world—from the abstract to the real, from the general to the personal and particular, from the shadow of law’s indifference back to—in Eudora Welty’s words—“each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.” Sex trafficking then became the subject, documentary the form of my challenge to law’s own vision, law’s own way of knowing.
Read in appellate court opinions, performed in courtrooms, perpetuated in classrooms, law’s stories take the form of dialogue, a highly structured exchange of questions and answers that often translates the messy details of human stories—bodies, emotions, social contexts, and moral doubts—into apparently neutral and universal stories of written texts, precedent, and authority. Law’s stories say simply, “this is what law is.”
I made A Civil Remedy to render visible what law does.