SINGAPORE - When former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Eunice Olsen went to Cambodia for the first time in 2006 to visit a shelter, she met little girls whom she thought were the children of women rescued from the sex trade.
"But no, these were the girls who had been rescued. They were probably six or seven years old. One little girl put her hand in my hand and it just fit into my palm," recalls Olsen, who was ambassador for aid group World Vision at the time. "It was my first time coming across the virginity trade. It's really repulsive and it really affected me, and the whole issue has always been at the back of my mind."
She has now co-produced and acted in a film about it, 3.50. Made with less than $1 million, it premieres at GV VivoCity tomorrow, incidentally the day she turns 36. The movie, directed by Cambodian veteran film-maker Chhay Bora and Singaporean Eysham Ali, is slated for general release in February. In it, she plays a documentary film-maker who investigates the case of a girl who has been abducted from her village in Cambodia.
The idea behind making 3.50 was that rather than presenting people with a barrage of cold statistics and information, a film would better promote awareness about human trafficking through a story that was relatable. It was an idea she had been kicking around for some time. The title refers to the fact that sex with prostitutes in Cambodia can cost as little as $3 to $4.
Eysham Ali and Justin Deimen wrote the story with Olsen contributing research. The film is not based on a true story in particular, but on interviews conducted with social workers who had worked with the girls, through non-governmental organisations in Cambodia.
In an interview with Life! at her HDB home in Ang Mo Kio, Olsen points out: "The girls take a very long time to open up because they have been traumatised. When she is first taken, if she doesn't do what they tell her, they rape her, they beat her, they drug her. The average age of a Cambodian girl who's trafficked is 15.
"What makes me think I have the right to ask her to tell me her story in that space of 10 minutes when she doesn't know who I am and has never met me before. You can't establish trust and respect in 10 minutes."
She believes it worked out for the best as the social workers interviewed had a bird's-eye view of the situation and it also meant that she could get access to the girls' stories while their identities remained protected.