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Olympia Dukakis' filmmaker daughter highlights human sex trafficking in Southeast Asia: 'A global industry'

Filmmaker Christina Zorich traveled to Southeast Asia to document the region's rampant sex trafficking in a new documentary, "The New Abolitionists."

Christina Zorich, daughter of the late actress Olympia Dukakis, documented the rampant sex trafficking in Southeast Asia in a new documentary following her eye-opening trip to the region in 2016.

Asia is considered the most trafficked region in the world with an estimated 11 million slaves, "The New Abolitionists" reveals at the outset. In 2016, Zorich traveled to Southeast Asia to document the work of Christian ministries who have dedicated their lives to ending human sex trafficking, including Extreme Love Ministries, Tamar Center, and NightLight International. Shadowing the work of the groups, Zorich found scores of women being trafficked in local karaoke bars and more. 

Asked why the region is such a hotbed for crime, Zorich partly pointed to its war-torn history. The Khmer Rouge's Cambodian Genocide from 1975 to 1979 killed approximately two million people, and a large percentage of the population still lives in poverty, The Diplomat reports. 

"And I think during that war-torn time, that struggle between communism and democracy in Southeast Asia, how that struggle played out in the different countries in that region… it was a hotbed area globally and the ravages of the Khmer Rouge, just the different effects of that struggle left that region rife for it," Zorich told Fox News Digital.


Sex trafficking victims are often girls from poor families who are tricked into working as prostitutes. Many girls are also sold by their own families to pay off debts. Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, one of the cities heavily featured in the film, is rife with foreign men who come to seek sex with young girls.

Zorich choked up when reflecting on how she and her mom shared a passion for exposing the rampant issue, although she at first struggled to get her parents' support.

"I'm going to get emotional. Well, she didn't want me to do this," Zorich said of her mom. "She didn't understand what I was doing. She thought I was putting myself in danger and being nutbaggy doing it."

Halfway through the project, Zorich said she ran out of money and reached out to her parents for help. She credited her mom, who won an Oscar for her performance in the 1987 film "Moonstruck," with "saving" the film. She is also a relative of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who ran for president in 1988.

"One of the last things she said to me, she's kind of towards the end of her life, she was looking at me and she just seen one of the last edits of the film, and she said, ‘Keep going, keep going,’" Zorich recalled. "She was very supportive, and believed in what I was doing towards the end. But during the process, no, she… most of my family thought I was crazy." 


Zorich noted sex trafficking is a major problem in the United States too, and finding solutions, she said, should be a bipartisan issue.

"But I think we have to really start getting honest and having some integrity discussing the subject matter, because it's happening in red states, it's happening in blue states, it's happening across the board – different races, it's happening in different countries," Zorich said. "There is a global industry that's working with local gangs in our country, and I think it's a similar structure in other countries."

A lawsuit was filed against Meta in Delaware Chancery Court in March from several pension and investment funds that own Meta stock, claiming that the company is not doing enough to stop sex trafficking on Facebook and Instagram. The complaint claimed that Meta had turned a blind eye to "systemic evidence" of criminal activity.

"We prohibit human exploitation and child sexual exploitation in no uncertain terms," Meta said in response. "The claims in this lawsuit mischaracterize our efforts to combat this type of activity. Our goal is to prevent people who seek to exploit others from using our platform."


Zorich put her effort into perspective while praising the work of the ministries who are on the ground trying to solve the rampant trafficking.

"All the anti-traffickers, they give up everything to go do this work," she said. "So what I did actually, compared to what they've dedicated their lives to, is nothing, because mine was like a 7-year journey of making a movie. But, they give up their whole lives and their families and friends have various… they live constantly in danger. And so, comparatively, what I've done is nothing."

Asked how the average person can help, Zorich directed them to the "What Can I Do" page on her website,, which lists some of the organizations featured in the documentary, as well as several NGOs. She also noted the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which collects phone calls and data about trafficking victims in the States and can be reached at 1-888-373-7888, or by texting "BeFree" to 233733. The Polaris Project, Zorich added, provides a "real comprehensive sense of what it looks like in the state states, not just sex trafficking, but labor trafficking and the businesses that front it." 


"The New Abolitionists" will be available to rent/own on Amazon, iTunes, AppleTV, Vudu, XBox, Google Play, YouTube Movies, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV, Dish Network, Sling TV and more on April 11, 2023. The DVD will be available via,,, and by the end of April.

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