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"Call + Response" is Both

What are you doing this weekend? If you live in one of many metropolitan areas, you could support the abolitionist movement by seeing the film “Call+Response," produced by Fair Trade Pictures.

The “rockumentary” (isn't that a great word?) featuring musical performances and information about modern human trafficking opens today at select theaters across the United States. Sadly, I don't live anywhere near any of these theaters, so any information I can give you right now will have to come from their website.

I'd never personally heard of a rockumentary before this film. It seems to be a cross between a benefit concert and a traditional documentary. In fact, one of the central components of this film is that it is similar to a benefit concert—supported entirely through donations, all profits go to organizations that deal with the issue of human trafficking.

Even if “Call+Response” doesn't come to your area, its website,, is worth visiting for the wealth of information it offers not only about the problem of slavery, but also about some very creative ideas as to how visitors can be part of the solution.

The music in “Call + Response” represents a wide variety of popular genres, from hip hop to country to Jewish reggae (no, that wasn't a typo). You can listen for yourself on the website. Along with a plethora of musicians—too many to tag when I posted the trailer—some prominent political figures appear, notably Madeline Albright and Dr. Cornel West.

Dr. West very eloquently explains the meaning of the title “Call + Response” in a video clip on the website entitled “A Brief History.” On early American plantations, West says, all the slaves had access to that would allow them to express their situation were their bodies and their voices. The American black church has roots in the tradition in antiphonal or “call and response” music, where a leader sings a phrase to which participants respond. Jeffery Johnson relates this idea to tribal traditions in which drums call people to various types of action. “Call + Response” seems to be a blend of these two concepts, both expressing the pain on behalf of the oppressed and calling others to action.

Slavery is an ugly reality. A film documenting such exploitation is not for the faint of heart, and I don't expect parents of young children will want to bring the family. The movie is officially rated PG-13.

For a grassroots, donation-driven project, “Call+Response” is an extremely impressive undertaking. Two things I would like to see in the future are a low-bandwidth version of the website (the graphics are quite intense and I imagine would take a long time to load on dial-up or slower Internet connections) and a soundtrack available for purchase that would fund the same programs as the box office earnings.

Needless to say, this is quite a project. It isn't, however, the best publicized, since the organizers are not relying on coverage by mass media. I myself only found out about it two days ago through a notification from an artist on Facebook. If you would like to stand up for the world's 27 million slaves, you could help get the word out or go see the film for yourself.

So, I'll ask again, what are you doing this weekend?