By Kevin Behan
Sex trafficking. It’s not a common topic for discussion. Once in a while it might make its way onto television, but otherwise it largely goes ignored. Red-light districts where one can purchase a companion for the evening are present in most cities. Few consider if their companion is there of her own accord.
A dance collective known as Bluebird Uncaged decided to inform others of sex trafficking in the best way they could — with dance. Produced and choreographed by Rebekah Diaddigo, and directed by Caleb Diaddigo, they’ve created a short film named “WHITE UMBRELLA” and have hosted it online for anyone to view freely.
The “White Umbrella” refers to the effort to shelter and aid those who have been coerced through various means to enter the sex trade. The concept? Hold up your umbrella even when the day is cloudless for those who endure an endless torrent of rain. Free those who are trapped. Shelter those who can run on their own and aid those who cannot. If you’re interested in more in-depth information, there are several campaign websites that are just a Google search away, as well as the book which shares the movement’s name, ”The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking,” by Mary Frances Bowley.
There is neither dialogue nor color in this film. A musical score composed by Todd Locke accompanies the entire piece, gracefully enhancing the connected performances, never dwarfing them, but never unnoticed. Despite the lack of words, Bluebird Uncaged shows their skill by telling the tale purely through dance, music and cinematography. It chiefly follows an unnamed girl with pigtails as she goes through the journey from bondage to freedom. A secondary character, the holder of the titular white umbrella, appears from time to time, offering the first girl shelter whenever possible, guiding her on her way to freedom.
Seeing as no one speaks, they have to convey certain concepts through symbolism. One of the most important props they use is that of an actual white umbrella, which is only held by girls who are free. Frequently a dancer would hold her umbrella over a girl who is in distress, symbolizing what the movement is all about.
There are numerous dances within “WHITE UMBRELLA”, most taking place in either a parking garage which represented captivity, or a park which represented freedom. Skillful camera work bring dynamic angles to view the emotionally charged performances. I was surprised to see how well the dancers display the emotions of their characters on their faces, expecting to just see the feelings of their characters through gesture, which they still pull off.
My one complaint with “WHITE UMBRELLA” is that the uninitiated in the subject matter will likely be as confused as I was. However, I urge those who consider viewing this to be patient. The film will explain itself.
I admire the group for their effort to bring the horrors of sex trafficking to the medium of dance, one that I didn’t think was suited for such a topic until now. Even though the film does not take time to explain what the White Umbrella movement is, save for a few sentences at the beginning, it does enough to spark your curiosity. “WHITE UMBRELLA” serves well as a first step for the unaware to learn more. I highly recommend you take a look yourself, and then show it to those unaware of the campaign.