SXSW FILM 2012
By Caitlyn Collins | March 21, 2012
Director: Megan Griffiths
Writers: Richard B. Phillips, Megan Griffiths (screenplay); Richard B. Phillips, Chong Kim (story)
Starring: Jamie Chung, Matt O’Leary, Beau Bridges, Tantoo Cardinal, Eddie Martinez, Bhama Roget, Scott Mechlowicz
Eden, directed by Megan Griffiths, is one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen, a film I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. And considering the story that it tells, it’s only fitting that the film is filled with cringe-worthy moments. Eden is a terrifying yet courageous story about one woman’s harrowing journey through abduction, human trafficking, and sex slavery.
The film begins in 1994 with Hyun Jae (Jamie Chung) happily working in her parents’ store. Yet she has a bit of a rebellious side, a sense of empowerment that comes to most students on the verge of high school graduation. Hyun Jae decides to sneak out to a bar one night with her friend Janine (Bhama Roget) where one handsome young man, Jesse (Scott Mechlowicz) buys them a round. Hyun Jae’s braces give away the fact that she’s too young to be in a bar, but that doesn’t stop Jesse’s charm. While giving Hyun Jae a ride home, Jesse decides to make a quick stop. By the time Hyun Jae realizes what’s happening, it’s too late. She wakes up kicking and crying with muffled screams in the back of Mario’s (Eddie Martinez) car.
Bob Gault (Beau Bridges) is a respectable marshal, a man of the law. He also happens to be a high-ranking member of a lucrative sex slave ring outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Hyun Jae’s final destination. After being drugged into sedation, her braces are removed by the in-house nurse (Tantoo Cardinal). Gault and his crack smoking lackey, Vaughn (Matt O’Leary), dub Hyun Jae with the name she’ll carry for the next two years, Eden.
Eden is a harsh look at the lives of the young women forced into sexual slavery. It’s also speaks of how backward our society is when it comes to violence against young women. After mutilating her first John, Eden runs away as quickly as possible and stumbles upon a group of women outdoors sipping tea. Crying, covered in blood, and screaming for help Eden is capture by Vaughn as the women stare in disbelief debating whether or not they should call the authorities. Vaughn tells Eden to scream all she wants; he knows the women won’t do anything. Eden becomes a survivor, willing to do anything in order to break away, including building up a complex sense of trust between herself and Vaughn.
This story is the stuff of nightmares, more so because it is based on the true experiences of Chong Kim, a Korean-American woman. Many of the images are breath taking; some for their beauty and others for their cruelty. Jamie Chung and Matt O’Leary both deliver incredible performances. It’s a film that stirs you emotionally; it also stirred me into action.