'Nona': Kate Bosworth and Michael Polish Talk 'Modern-Day Slavery' and Human Trafficking

“Let's start with something simple: What's your name?” That's the only English line in the trailer for Kate Bosworth's latest film, which aims to put a face behind human trafficking, where victims are tricked and forced into providing commercial sex. Nona, short for No Name, is produced by Bosworth and directed and written by her husband, Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork).

Nona follows the journey of a young Honduran woman named Nona (Sulem Calderon), who desires to flee her home country for America. During her trip, she meets Hecho—a charming, handsome man—who promises to bring her to the U.S. But this isn't a love story and Hecho is not the man who will whisk Nona into a life of prosperity and happiness. Instead, she is lied to, assaulted and manipulated into working in the sex slavery trade.

Scenarios like the one depicted in Nona are not uncommon. Unlike other projects that shed light on the subject, Nona aims to help viewers understand how and why the practice of trafficking happened alongside its misconceptions. Roughly 14,500 and 17,500 women are targeted annually in the United States alone. Films like Nona, out Dec 7 in Los Angeles and New York, hope to open a dialogue on how to stop the abuse.

“The majority of the times that you see anything having to do with human trafficking or sex trafficking, you're thrust into the middle of the abuse and you don't understand how that got there or why that got there,” Bosworth, 35, told Newsweek. “It was important for Michael to say this is a girl who was born in Honduras and had dreams. She had a life that was very difficult and wanted to make a better life for herself. She had a mother that she missed.”

“You start with the human. We're talking about human beings. Yet the statistics seem to eclipse the humanity at sometimes. So, we felt like if we could create a sense of empathy and humanity in one person and in one story, then that will really help [tell the story],” she added.

Nona, which debuts ahead of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, was funded out of Bosworth and Polish's pockets. Polish shot the film himself two years ago in about three weeks. Both Bosworth and Polish wanted to tell the film in the most authentic way, so Polish wrote it in Spanish and traveled to Honduras to film many of the scenes.

Polish and Bosworth were inspired to create Nona after by an incident that occurred near their Los Angeles home. “There was a house that was recently busted as I was thinking about starting a new screenplay,” Polish, 48, explained. “It was just down the street. We're walking in front of and driving in front of these houses all the time—and there's imprisoned slavery going on.”

Polish continued, “That's modern-day slavery happening right in our backyard. Being half Mexican and my mom being Mexican, I wanted to tell it through the eyes of the culture I knew growing up.”

Nona presents what Bosworth calls “an extreme slice of life” that first sprouted as “a seedling” in the couple's kitchen. The filmmaker/producer team, who founded Make Pictures Productions, brought the film to places like Richmond International Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival over industry darlings such as Sundance Film Festival because they wanted to present the film in areas it “needed” to be seen, Polish explained. Polish suggested top-tier festivals “don't necessarily need a movie like this” compared to smaller festivals with a “rural community where these things [like human trafficking] are happening.”

Audiences who view Nona are guaranteed to see a heartbreaking story of human trafficking's frequency. However, it's a story that's told with care for its subject matter through a relatively realistic lense.

“We clearly are living in such a polarized time where it's a real kind of me versus you, us versus them, mentality,” Bosworth said. “I feel like [it's important] to take a moment and really think about where someone's from, why they might be here, to really take into consideration something other than yourself and to create a deeper sense of empathy for your fellow human beings...This started as a movie. It's now become a mission. The line, for me, between artist and activist started to blur.”

Nona is now playing in Los Angeles and New York City.

Kate Bosworth and Michael Polish 'Nona'
Kate Bosworth and her husband, filmmaker Michael Polish, spoke about creating a film that tackles human trafficking, called "Nona." Here, Polish (L) and Bosworth are pictured attending the premiere of "Nona" at Village East Cinema on December 07, 2018, in New York City. Lars Niki/Getty Images for North of Two