"He worked six days a week, his friends said, often in 12-hour shifts. Mr. Wang quickly fell into a grueling routine, his life pared down to its simplest components..."

Bus Crash in the Bronx Ends a Man's Fight for His Family
New York Times
by Kirk Semple and Jeffrey E. Singer
March 21, 2011

Earlier this month, 15 persons were killed when their bus overturned on I-95. The bus was traveling from Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino to New York City's Chinatown. Many of the passengers were Chinese immigrants.

The New York Times published an article about the life of one of the passengers, Mr. Wang Jianhua. Wang emigrated from China in 2008, and had been working "six days a week...often in 12-hour shifts" to pay off his snakehead debt, and support his wife and children in China.

"Juliet", a Chinese youth interviewed last year, described her own working life with the same words that Semple and Singer used to describe Wang's in their article:

"work, eat, sleep, work, eat sleep."

Juliet was able to leave the restaurant circuit, however, countless others are less fortunate.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of this terrible accident, as well as with those persons working in similar conditions across the country.

Click here to read the complete New York Times article.

 
The Immigrant Child Advocacy Project (ICAP), based in Chicago, IL, works with unaccompanied immigrant minors staying in shelters in the Chicago area. This includes children who have been smuggled to the U.S. through snakeheads.

While the children are often anxious for a life outside of the shelters, once they leave and begin work on the restaurant circuit, they are nonetheless bound by their debt.

Here, ICAP child advocate Jajah Wu discusses how the children's upbringing may at times constrain their abilities to imagine better, freer futures for themselves.
 
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Over the past year, we'd approached structuring the film number of different ways, from an essay-like structure explaining each aspect of the snakehead trade and the young persons' lives once they arrived, to a more sparse outline with brief examples and discussions of each point.

We found that our preferred approach is to hone in our focus to follow the stories of the children, from their home life in China, to their journeys across the world, to their life in the United States and hopes for the future. Complemented by the conversations we had with their lawyers, advocates, and with experts in the field, we believe this provides the most thorough picture of this story, and the challenges that these children face.

After reviewing all of the footage, we've started to build the framework for what will eventually be the "script" of the documentary. 
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All the way to the left, on the white cards, are the headers for the various sections of the film in order (up to down). Right of each section is a sequence of index cards representing segments of interviews in the order that we plan to cut them into the film (the order only, of course, as it had been determined at time of this writing). Under some of the cards are slips of blue index cards, with descriptions of B-Roll, graphics, or archival footage that we would like to play under the interview segments. It's been a long road in getting here, but we hope to get this board filled in the next few weeks, and then move into editing.

 
The Human Trafficking Project is a site dedicated to raising awareness of modern day slavery. One of their missions is to "blend art, information and technology to create awareness of modern day slavery and take action to stop it." As this is very much in line with our goals for Walking Merchandise, we were glad to have the opportunity to be interviewed by HTP's Lauren Hutton late last month. In the article, producer Rob Nguyen discusses the origins of the film, and some of the challenges involved in its making over the course of this past year.

To check out the full article on The Human Trafficking Project blog, click here.