Austin Film Festival Interview
12:27 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

At Austin Film Festival: 'Heaven' a Harrowing Look at Sex Trafficking

Disclosure: KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

There are plenty of funny and flashy films at this year's Austin Film Festival but also many that deal with what you might call "big issues."

A documentary about abortion was honored at the festival. Other documentaries track issues like immigration, obesity and a Jewish person converting to Islam. Some narrative films are also highlighting "big issues."

Ya'Ke Smith is the writer of the upcoming film "Heaven." It's a follow-up to Smith's critically-praised film "Wolf." It's part of a trilogy dealing with children and sexuality. "Wolf" is about a child who is molested by his pastor. "Heaven" is about a young woman who is manipulated into sex trafficking.

KUT's Laura Rice talked with Smith before a cast reading of that script on Wednesday.

On Highlighting the Sexual Manipulation of Children:

"It's something we're not really talking about. Honestly, when you get a child that's so young and you do this sort of traumatic damage to them in this way, those are scars that last a lifetime. And there's so many people that, even now, at 30, 40, 50 hold those scars … They're still holding onto that because they've never really had a chance to deal with it in the right form. I would hope that these types of films can sort of begin that conversation and maybe give them a way to start to talk about what happened to them and process it."

On Researching the Film:

"Before I wrote anything on the page, there were a bunch of interviews, a bunch of reading books, watching documentaries and just sort of filling myself up with as many stories as I could. That way, when I told the story, it would feel authentic and it would feel real and it would sort of be a combination of all these women and men's stories."

On the Role of Race:

"When you look at the amount of African American and Latino girls that are on the street who never really get the help that they need because sometimes society sees it as though they want to be out there."

The Austin Film Festival is holding a special staged script reading of "Heaven" on Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. at the Rollins Theatre. While the reading is first open to Austin Film Festival Badge and pass holders, students will also be able to get in free with a student ID.