Why Slavery?

A series of groundbreaking documentary films uncover the lives of men, women and children living as modern slaves in all corners of the world.
Available on CBC Gem

Why Slavery?

documentary Channel

Why are 40 million people currently living as slaves?

Following the unprecedented success of Why Democracy? and Why Poverty? The Why is launching a series of ground-breaking documentary films which asks why slavery remains so endemic in the 21st Century, increasing awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery. 

Five compelling and informative documentary films will uncover the lives of men, women and children living as slaves in all corners of the world. Whether it is the deeply flawed Kafala System in the Middle East or the prolific number of children bought and sold in India, the Why Slavery? series will shine a light on the millions of lives lived in the shadows of enslavement.

Watch the full series online here:

Episode 1. North Korea's Secret Slaves: Dollar Heroes 

Shrouded in secrecy and notoriously cash-strapped the North Korean regime has resorted to running one of the world’s largest slaving operations - exploiting the profits to fulfill their agenda. These bonded labourers can be found in Russia, China and dozens of other countries around the world - including EU member states. Featuring undercover footage and powerful testimonials ‘Dollar Heroes’ reveals the scale and brutality of the operation. With the promise of payment and honour, thousands of North Koreans are being sent abroad, only to find themselves under constant surveillance, working 12 hour days, in harsh conditions for wages that are transferred directly to the regime.

‘Dollar Heroes’ exposes the inner workings of the system and how companies and governments, bound by law to protect their employees, are complicit in the trade of human beings. The film asks how this method of operation is legal, and what - if anything - is being done to stop it.

Episode 2. Maid in Hell 

Can an employment system hide a reality of torture and humiliation? 35-year-old Mary Kibwana is just one of the thousands of women who lived through hell working as a domestic helper in Jordan. She is a mother of four and was lucky to return to her home in Kenya. She arrived in a wheelchair with 70 percent of her body burned. Two months later she died.  Harassment, abuse, rape and 18-hour work days are a commonplace reality for domestic helpers who have travelled to the Middle East to find employment. Trapped in the Kafala system, their passports are confiscated, and they are bound to their employer. Unable to flee, they risk harsh punishments or imprisonments if they try. ‘Maid In Hell’ gives unprecedented access to this frightening and brutal form of modern slavery. Following employment agents who vividly describe the trade, as well as maids who struggle to find a way home after harrowing, and sometimes, deadly experiences, we come to understand the grotesque reality faced by thousands of women each day.

Episode 3. Selling Children 

Is poverty raising a generation of children for sale? In the world’s largest democracy, India, millions of vulnerable children are bought and sold, given only what they need to survive another day. Throughout Indian society, the mechanisms of bonded slave labour are insidious, powerful and nearly impossible to escape for children who have become trapped in a system driven by profits. Our Indian director looks behind the overwhelming statistics - revealing how the lack of education and persistent poverty provides a breeding ground for modern slavery.
In this film, we follow the lives of children who have been denied a childhood and an education to be sold to work in mica mines, to pick tea leaves at plantations, to work as domestic helpers and even sold as brides when they are just young girls. Their story, traces back to their families, exposes how perilous circumstances and a deep lack of knowledge about the meaning of slavery results in the selling of children.

Episode 4. A Woman Captured 

Can freedom be more frightening than enslavement? A European woman has been kept by a family as a domestic slave for ten years. Marish has been exploited and abused by a woman for whom she toils as a housekeeper entirely unpaid - performing all manner of back-breaking household duties seven days a week in exchange only for meals, cigarettes and a couch to sleep on. She even has to hand over the money she earns from an extra job as a cleaner in a factory. She is forbidden to do anything without permission. Marish’s 18-year-old daughter ran away a couple of years ago unable to bear her circumstances any longer, but Marish lives with too much fear in her heart to leave. She dreams of seeing her daughter again. A woman captured is a  raw and intimate portrayal of the psychology behind enslavement. Director Bernadett Tuza-Ritter offers an evocative study of a woman so debased and disregarded that even she has lost sight of her own life. Drawing courage from the filmmaker’s presence, she decides to escape the unbearable oppression and become a free woman.

Episode 5. I Was A Yazidi Slave

Can there be justice after genocide, sexual violence and slavery? In August 2014 an Islamic State massacre of unimaginable proportions took place during the rapid invasion of the Yazidi people in Sinjar, northern Iraq. Young Yazidi women were separated from the old and taken to the Galaxy Cinema in Mosul. There they were paraded, selected, enslaved, tortured and systematically raped. Somewhere only 11 years old.

In this film international lawyer Philippe Sands travels to Kurdish-Yazidi refugee camps in Dohuk and interviews escaped victims of IS on how they live in the aftermath of genocidal violence. Back in Europe Sands then encounters the son of Yazidi Kurdish immigrants Dr. Jan Kizilhan, a world-renowned trauma expert. Together they work to bring 1000 women and girls for treatment at Kizilhan’s clinic in Schwarzwald, Germany. We follow the Yazidi women’s journey to recovery and ask how a survivor of unthinkable sexual violence can find justice and a path to rehabilitation. This is their story.

Watch the full series online here.