KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) -- A movie crew has spent the last several months in southeast Wisconsin making an independent film about human trafficking.
Thirty-year-old Peter Mastne is an actor and director of "Imago," the Kenosha News reported. The movie focuses on a safe house for victims of human trafficking, a missing girl and a sex-trafficking ring.
Mastne was born and raised in Thailand. His parents were missionaries who often worked with abandoned children whose mothers were victims of sex trafficking. His sister now works with A21, a nonprofit that advocates human trafficking victims.
Mastne said he was surprised to realize how big of a problem human trafficking is in the U.S.
"Girls from Thailand, Mexico, eastern Europe, from Latin America, Middle East, from Africa, all get trafficked into the States because the demand is here, the money is here," he said. "That's really sad that here in the land of the free, we're creating the most demand for it."
Mastne said the film looks at human trafficking on the surface, but its deeper meaning lies in the redemption of the characters.
"For most of the girls who've been either tricked or kidnapped, it's physical and literal redemption (when they're freed)," he said. "For some of the main characters, I play Scott Tanner, I need redemption from the past."
While he was writing the movie, Mastne interviewed women who have survived sex trafficking.
"Finding redemption is a lifelong process for these victims," he said. "There's different kinds. First there's your physical liberation and that's step one, but after that, there's many, many years. Part of it that is so horrific is that even when they're free, the trauma they go through and the PTSD and reliving those nightmares and even their own self-worth, self-confidence and sense of identity suffers."
The movie's title, "Imago," is a reference to stage when a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis as a fully developed adult.
More than 40 actors are involved in the project.