One day you will watch The Price of Free and your life will never be the same again. If films about the damage that fast fashion is doing to the planet have yet to engage a new consumer in you, The Price of Free movie can’t fail to.
Around the world today, more than 152 million children are victims of child labour, and 4.3 million children are currently in forced labour. In India, a child goes missing every 8 minutes. This subject is the focus of the award-winning The Price of Free, which provides an eye-opening and often harrowing lens into this huge global challenge.
Debuting on YouTube today, the 90-minute documentary, which was awarded the US Grand Jury prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, follows Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and his dedicated team as they carry out dramatic factory raids across New Delhi to rescue children from labour, exploitation and trafficking. The film centres on the hunt for Sonu, a young boy trafficked to Delhi for work who has been missing for eight months. Using hidden cameras and assuming the role of buyers to gain access to the factory, Kailash and his team take on one of their most challenging missions to date in a bid to return the boy to his family.
While we often talk about the handprint of fashion and the hands that make the clothes we wear every day, The Price of Free begs us to consider the hands, often children’s, that produce the homewares, plastic toys and other products sold across the world, telling the story of countless children who are forced into slave labour due to rising global demands for cheap goods.
“Most major brands label their products in other countries to avoid detection during the raids,” the narrator explains. “As our thirst for cheaper and cheaper goods has grown, western companies look for more affordable manufacturing so they can stay competitive.” Much of that saving comes from outsourcing labour: “In the US, minimum wage is 7.25 an hour, in France it’s 11.22 an hour, China it’s 87 cents an hour. Child labour is free.”
It’s a haunting message. Child labour is worth $100 billion dollars globally, making it the largest organised crime industry in the world. But thanks to the tireless dedication of Kailash, his family, and his organization BBA, the number of child victims has reduced globally from 260 million to 152 million.
“We have the power – think before you shop. If you think a deal is too good to be true it probably is.”
In this ongoing battle, the harrowing opening scene of the film follows Kailash and his team as they raid a factory in New Delhi, breaking down locked doors as they climb the floors of the building to find children hiding on the rooftop amidst bags of foam, suffocating in the sweltering heat.
Since 1980, Kailash and his grassroots organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) have rescued and rehabilitated over 87,000 children, battling corruption and frequently risking their lives. Kailash himself has had his back and skull broken in an attack during a raid, and many of his activists have been attacked and badly injured, even murdered. But for the inspirational founder, his family and team of activists, the risks they take are far outweighed by the cause.
“I have one single mission of my life, that every child should be free to be a child. Free to laugh and cry, free to go to school, free to touch the sky,” says Kailash.
Following the raid on the factory, the boys are taken back to the ashram where they are given fresh clothes and taken care of until arrangements can be made for their parents to collect them (with birth certificates needing to be shown by a parent before a child can leave their care). Karim, one of the smallest rescued boys, is tearful. His parent’s phone number was written on some money and has been lost, and he can only remember his owner’s number. Later, he makes the heartbreaking admission that he decided to go to work to help his family pay for his sister’s wedding.
The Price of Free makes for harrowing but inspiring viewing. Kailash has dedicated his life to ending child labour and exploitation worldwide. “If one child is enslaved, for me the world is not free and that is an evil I will work to end in my lifetime. And I will do. I will do.” Who’s for joining him?
The Price of Free was directed by filmaker Derek Doneen, and was co-produced and co-financed by Participant Media and Concordia Studio.
Watch the full film on YouTube from today.
See our guide for more inspiring must-watch documentaries.
Read Grace Forrest’s take on the hidden cost – and opportunity – of fighting slavery through global supply chains.
Read our interview with Baroness Lola Young, discussing the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, which she is campaigning to modernise, and how Brexit could impact its progress.