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An artist relentlessly sprays silhouettes on public walls tagged #missing, an activist accompanies rescued girls across international borders. Parallel narratives intersect to reveal a sliver of hope when women imaginatively challenge a powerful trafficking nexus operating in a country where every 8 minutes a child goes missing

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Child sex trafficking seems a distant reality from our lives. Yet in a single image, the shadow of a girl on a wall disrupts my sense of normalcy with the message #missing. Can shadows speak? I relate to Leena spreading a powerful message through art but when she steps into unchartered waters to support a survivor in a prosecution case, the story takes a series of twists. Samina is from a family of fisher folk without Leena’s support, she stands little chance of enduring the trauma of a relentless battle that raises uncomfortable questions. Hasina provides answers. A veteran activist who learns courage from survivor Ella. Together they convict a political kingpin and repatriate cross-border trafficking survivors.

From the Shadows is different because it shuns sensationalism for a dignified approach. After most of the filming Samina wanted her face concealed as the verdict is nowhere in sight. As a woman I understand her but as a filmmaker, I enter the editing room conflicted. Samina’s expressive face is edited to become a form much like the shadow whose story one must dig deep to discover. A new canvas emerges forcing the audience to listen hard to layer the story with what is `unseen’. If we respect constraints that define the world of survivors we can navigate the legal minefield around cases of sexual violence to construct important narratives. The film does not point fingers but allows viewers to join the dots to reveal a canvas of traffickers with friendly faces – a family member, neighbour, policeman or NGO worker. Exploring the intersection of art and activism, the film sensitively handles stories from the shadows gently placing them in the spotlight.

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