Free movie screening shows the pervasiveness of sex trafficking

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Scene from “Operation Toussaint” documentary | Courtesy photo

IDAHO FALLS – Sometimes you become aware of something and you just can’t let it go.

That’s how Idaho Falls native Blake Davis felt after seeing “Operation Toussaint,” a new documentary about Operation Underground Railroad’s effort to eradicate human trafficking around the world.

Davis attended a premiere for the film in Orlando, Florida three months ago and was inspired to not only share the film with others but also get behind the nonprofit’s cause.

The film is being launched online Tuesday, July 10, but Davis and others are hosting a premiere of the documentary at the Paramount Theater in Idaho Falls Wednesday, July 18.

“I know people around here are super interested in (O.U.R. and their mission). I thought, Let’s expose more people to (the film) and have a little fun. It gives it more meaning when you’re with like-minded people in one space,” Davis tells EastIdahoNews.com.

“Operation Toussaint” highlights the beginnings of O.U.R. and what prompted its founder, Tim Ballard, to start it up in the first place.

Ballard formed the organization in 2014 after working more than ten years with the Department of Homeland Security. He began rescuing children from sex slavery in 2001 while working for the government. He soon realized sex trafficking was among the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world.

At that time, Ballard was restricted to missions within the boundaries of U.S. jurisdiction. One of the reasons he started Operation Underground Railroad was because it could have a worldwide reach.

“Because we have children, we know what innocence looks like, what childhood is supposed to be,” Ballard told EastIdahoNews.com in 2016. “I went into this world (of human trafficking), and whatever I thought it was, it was a thousand times worse.”

RELATED | Founder of non-profit that saves children from sex trafficking speaks to locals

Jennifer Saunders is another volunteer helping to coordinate the premiere in Idaho Falls. She heard Ballard speak at a conference last summer and was eager to get behind his cause.

“(Human trafficking) goes on in our own country right under our noses. I was completely unaware of it,” says Saunders. “To hear (Ballard’s) passion and that he willingly puts himself in danger to save these kids — it lit my heart on fire.”

The film also explores what it takes for Ballard and others to save these children and what a rescue operation actually looks like. Davis says the hopeful spin the film takes at the end is the reason people should watch it.

“The demand (for sex trafficking) will grow if we do nothing. If we do nothing, that just puts more kids in harm’s way,” Davis says. “I want people (who attend the screening) to feel empowered to make a donation to the organization or support its operation.”

A representative from O.U.R. will be in attendance for the premiere. The screening kicks off with a pre-show at 7:30 p.m. and the film starts at 8 p.m. The screening is open to everyone and is completely free, but seating is limited and will be available on a first come, first serve basis. There will also be free popcorn and drinks.

There will be a pre-screening of the film at the Paramount Theater Tuesday night for business owners and anyone who wants to be involved as a sponsor in the public screening next week.

“To have the opportunity to present this new film and help shed light into the darkness and gather voices to speak truth is truly a privilege and an honor,” Saunders says.

If you aren’t able to attend the premiere in Idaho Falls, you can still watch it at home by registering here.

You can also visit their Facebook page to learn more.

“The Abolitionists,” a documentary highlighting Ballard’s undercover sting operations and rescues, premiered in 2016.

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