I was in the middle of Kamthipura, the largest red light district in the world, and I didn’t even know it. With camera in hand, and my girlfriend (who is now my wife) at my side, I was assaulted by smells as I was snapping away. Later I learned that every vile desire a man could dream of was for sale, and child virgins were the region’s most noted delicacies.
I was traveling the world with my girlfriend. I had just graduated from the University of Utah with a major in film studies, and we wanted to travel while we still had the time and luxury to do so. Of the places we visited, India and Nepal haunted me the most. The chaos, the contradictions, the colors, the beauty, the revulsion. The hustlers, the healers, the teachers. What was real? What was not? I found my solace in reading books, newspapers, travel guides, and UNICEF reports, anything I could get my hands on to help connect the dots.
Sorting and sifting and trying to make sense of it all, I had the good fortune of meeting Matthew Friedman. Matt took me on a journey that would change my life and haunt my dreams. Born in Connecticut, he is now a technical advisor for the Office of Health and Family Planning to USAID/Nepal, helping to document and fight against the child sex slave trade in Asia. With his coaching, and the help of others trying to stop the “flesh trade,” I connected more dots than I once cared or dared to know about. Matt helped me see the unspeakable and shoot the unthinkable. And that is what The Day My God Died is about: tracing the trek of the Asian child sex trade and giving physical form to the unspeakable and unthinkable.
I found it quite ironic that Nepal, one of the world’s most religious countries, and the birthplace of Lord Buddha — who preaches the teachings of love and compassion — participated in the child sex slave trade. It was later that I discovered India and Nepal’s shame was not an isolated problem, but that every nation in the world participates in the human suffering callously labeled as child prostitution. In my mind it is nothing short of slavery: children are chattel and rape is the instrument of profitability.
In my generation, the dream of the great American novel has been usurped by cinema. When I returned from my travels, I was determined to produce the screenplay that would define my career. After a year of research in cyberspace, and communications with people working on the frontlines to stop the slave trade, it was time to see firsthand what I had been researching and seeing on my computer.
On my very first day in Nepal, everything changed. We were visiting a nonprofit organization that provided care for the young girls who had been rescued from the brothels of Bombay. In a journal entry dated April 20, 1999, I wrote:
There in front of me was a room, a room of lost innocence, a room of stolen youth. Thirty young girls and babies all returned from India. All dying of AIDS, all knowing they are dying of AIDS. Every emotion running through me. Should I cry? Should I scream? What should I do?
It was that exact moment when I realized the first step was not to write a fictionalized screenplay. Rather, the first step should be to document the real story by combining real word and real statistics with pictures that don’t lie.
There are so many stories of strength and resiliency. So many unanswered prayers and so many betrayals left unaccounted for. It is my hope to allow these children the opportunity to tell their stories, and by doing so share their hopes, dreams, and unanswered prayers.
Andrew Levine, Producer
Levine is a two-time grant recipient from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has traveled the world and spent over four years working on The Day My God Died. In the process, he has compiled statistics and interviews from international agencies such as UNICEF, the United Nations, the Global Survival Network, and the International Justice Mission; worked closely with the US/AID and the State Department; negotiated the collaboration of Congressman Jim McDermott, former Secretary Madeleine Albright, and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation, along with refugee camps for child castaways with AIDS.
Levine has worked in Hollywood with Norman Lear, Once Upon A Time Film Productions and at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. In 2000, he directed and produced The Price of Youth, a ten-minute expose chronicling the slave trade between Nepal and India. The short film was produced with Peter Gabriel’s renowned human rights organization Witness and led to Levine’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Levine has a film studies degree from the University of Utah. He has written screenplays and has produced and directed short independent films. He originally hails from Boston, but has resided in Utah for the past 15 years.
Geralyn Dreyfous, Producer