The third session of Ajyal Talks, the insightful discussions held as part of the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, presented by the Doha Film Institute (DFI), followed the screening of Kate McLarnon and Sky Neal’s documentary film, Even When I Fall (UK/2017) and explored the issue of illicit global trade in child captives.

Dr Mohammad Mattar, Professor of Law at Qatar University, Sky Neal, filmmaker, Elhum Shakerifar, producer and programmer, and Jenna Dawson-Faber, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime representative and moderator of the panel discussion, shared their insight on the trade during a discussion titled ‘Not For Sale: A Focus on Child Trafficking’. Also in attendance were Sunita Sunar and Bijay Limbu, two of the Nepali child survivors profiled in the film, members of Circus Kathmandu, the circus/rehabilitation camp that helps child survivors of circus trafficking.

Mattar congratulated Qatar for its adoption of human trafficking legislation and its work on identifying potential victims.

Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights, a violation of children, a crime against the state and a crime against humanity. While children account for only 28% of all trafficking cases, they are in many ways the worst cases.’

Neal, who began making her film in 2010 and has a performing arts background as an aerial artist, said that when she first heard of children being trafficked for circuses, she was shocked to discover that a world she loved so much had such a dark side.

Even if they get rescued, these children are stigmatised and often rejected by their families. They have such amazing, incredible skills but they are ashamed of them.

She said that this was kind of triple punishment: first by being trafficked and abused, then by being rejected and then self-loathing.

Limbu, who was rescued at the age of 12 after spending four years indentured to a circus, said that even after his rescue, he found it difficult to interact with other circus survivors.

We all felt humiliated by our experience and were depressed as a result. We treated each other badly, we were angry and harsh with one another. It was only after we started the workshops at the camp that I began to realise we could have different lives.’

Sunar, who spent eight years in captivity, said that not a single day went by without her hoping a friend or a family member would rescue her.

The psychological and physical abuse was so bad that after some time, I began to forget things – my family, where I came from, even my name.

Even after she was rescued, recovering from the abuse took time and effort. She said she felt humiliated and depressed, like Bijay. But then, she also realised that she could put the past behind and have a new life.

Both teens said that they had agreed to tell their stories on camera in the hopes that the film might help save other children from their experience.

Shakerifar stressed that with the film, she wanted to reframe the narrative.

These children are not victims, they are survivors. Circus Kathmandu teaches about trafficking by storytelling. We felt the film should do the same. And because film can travel, it gives these stories a chance to reach new audiences, whether we are with it or not.’

For more details on the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, visit the DFI website