Lucy Lui is taking on her most serious, kick-ass role yet - and behind the camera to boot.
The UNICEF ambassador premiered her directorial debut of the film, Meena, which aims to shed light on sexual slavery and human trafficking. It tells the story of Meena Khatun; an Indian woman who was imprisoned in a brothel at a young age and forced into the dark world of sexual slavery.
Meena was forced to perform demeaning sexual acts as a minor, having sex with 10 to 25 men per night. She later gave birth to two children, with the young girl also sold into prostitution. Meena eventually escaped, and with the help of the non-profit group Apne Aap, bravely returned to rescue her daughter Naina.
The horrowing tale offers insight into a world that many of us are shielded from, and many of us don't even know exists.
ELLE US sat down with Lucy to find out more about her groundbreaking new venture.
About the film: ‘It's important because it's something that a lot of people don't know about. It doesn't just happen to women. It happens to young girls that can range from the age of three and, in this particular movie, to the age of eight. When you're that young, you really don't know anything. You don't feel empowered to take things into your own hands. You're also so small and susceptible to what the adults are telling you to do, and you're afraid. Fear is a powerful tool.’
About her work behind the camera: ‘It's an amazing experience being behind the camera because I'm so used to being told what to do, having someone else take care of it. So it's a very unusual position to be in where I have to manage and take care of everything and answer all the questions. It was such an important topic [and] I had to be really sensitive to the young girls that I was working with. I really enjoyed it and I learned so much.’
About the #BringBackOurGirls campaign: ‘I think that was a huge campaign because people were so shocked and unaware of what happens outside of their world, their neighborhood, their area. It was a real jolt to the community. It allowed a lot of other women and children organisations to step up and say, “This happens all the time. This is not unusual.” The fact that it was so public was actually very positive. I really do think that awareness and education are the first steps. I also think that a lot of these kidnappers and people who are doing this are people who have no education and it may have happened to them as child soldiers at one point. In this particular movie, the woman in the brothel is beating the women because she herself grew up like this, and she says in the movie, “I've done this and you're going to do it, too.” So it's not breaking the cycle of abuse, it's continuing it by passing it on to other generations.’
What is she hoping to achieve with the short film? ‘In this particular movie, to have that type of courage and bravery is very difficult. The victims end up talking and reaching out to other women that it has happened to, and that is really the best way to heal. When it has happened to a woman and she talks about it, it's healing for her and it's also healing for the other person, or younger women who feel alone. They can rely on someone and start to relearn what it's like to trust again’.