by Adam Reger

I’m passing along a friend’s appeal for help finishing up a pretty alarming short-film project. The subject matter is “snakeheads”: Chinese smugglers who sneak Chinese people, many of them children, into the United States. Once here, the smuggled people—“walking merchandise,” which is the film’s title—are often saddled with enormous debt that they’re then compelled to work off.

You can check out the trailer here. My friend Ethan’s appeal is below the fold, but donations are being solicited at Kickstarter. As the message says, this is “all-or-nothing fundraising”; if the goal of $10,000 isn’t met by November 8th, none of the pledged money actually goes to the film project.

As some of you may know, I have been acting in New York and enrolled at Columbia University in a Masters program in International Conflict Resolution.  I’ve always been torn between entertaining and human rights work, and for the longest time I have pursued each interest separate from the other.  However, while working on my thesis in grad school, I was presented with an opportunity that would bring both of these passions under one roof in the form of a short documentary on child smuggling and child labor.

Every year, Chinese human smugglers, known as “snakeheads,” use transnational, illicit networks to transport adults and children from China into the United States. Migrants pay these snakeheads astronomical fees, and are subject to exploitation and brutality in the course of their journeys, as well as retribution upon themselves and their families should they be unable to pay. “Walking Merchandise” is a short documentary that explores a dark, unknown secret in America: children smuggled from China and left to work in restaurants to repay debts of $90,000.  These children are sent to the United States by their own families, accompanied only by international smuggling criminals. Once they arrive, they are responsible for paying back an enormous debt, oftentimes in extremely exploitative and dangerous scenarios.

Watch the trailer for “Walking Merchandise”: www.snakeheadthefilm.com

We are nearly finished with our principle photography, and we are currently trying to raise $10,500 for production and post-production costs.  We had initially raised $3,300 so we could begin working on this project, but that was only enough to get us to this point.  We need the support of wonderful people like you to donate AND share the trailer to help spread the word to others. We can’t even begin to explain the impact your gift makes on the film (a lot!), and without your support we won’t be able to finish this film.

We are using kickstarter to raise the money, which is an all-or-nothing fundraising tool, so if we do not reach our goal by Nov. 8th, then we won’t receive any funds pledged.  Will you please help us bring this issue to light by making a pledge today? http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/179567148/walking-merchandise-child-smuggling-and-the-snakeh

The most important thing is that if you give, please make sure to spread the word with everyone you can think of who might also give. We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m convinced that we can make it if we all work together to bring awareness to this issue.

Donate and kindly support our film to help bring awareness to this cause.


Thank you for all of your support!

Ethan Downing
Director, Walking Merchandise
Co-founder No Jacket Required