Seeing one’s successful theatrical production be transformed into a film would be a dream come true for anyone.
For native Red Deerian Andrew Kooman, that personal vision is about to be realized with the upcoming release of She Has A Name, the movie based on his remarkably powerful play of the same name.
She Has A Name, which is about a human trafficking incident in Thailand, released its first poster and teaser trailer online to mark the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl earlier this month. The teaser can be viewed at www.shehasanamefilm.com.
“To see what I envisioned come to life on the big screen is tremendous – just amazing, actually,” said Kooman. “We’ve put together a beautiful film with strong performances – I couldn’t be happier. And I think that audiences who know the play will just be blown away with not only the production value, but also the scope of the story. We’re telling things in a way that you just can’t do on the stage.
“With film you can tell a bigger story. She Has A Name on the big screen can get into some of the back story of the characters, and put it into the context of global corruption. So there’s a challenge of how do you stick to the heart and the truth of the original story and yet tell it in a new and fresh way that is faithful to the original? There were some challenges, but it was an exciting, creative challenge to tackle.”
The Unveil Studios’ film stars an international cast of actors including Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine, Hawaii Five-O, Eugenia Yuan (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sword of Destiny, Memoirs of A Geisha) and Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption, Ally McBeal). The film pairs these actors with up-and-coming stars – Vancouver-based actor Giovanni Mocibob, New York’s Teresa Ting and Singapore’s Vanessa Toh.
The film focuses on an investigation into a shocking human trafficking incident in southeast Asia and explores the layers of corruption that enable the global commercial sex trade to thrive, at the expense of young girls’ and women’s futures. The story is also based on an incident in Thailand where a storage container transporting more than 100 people ran out of gas and was simply abandoned. Ultimately about 50 people lost their lives.
That tragedy was a kind of a trigger for the plot. Jason poses as a john to build a case against a brothel trafficking girls into Bangkok. He must win the trust of a young girl forced to work as a prostitute who is known as ‘Number 18’ and convince her to risk her life to testify for the sake of justice.
As part of the film’s distribution strategy, global anti-trafficking agencies will be distributing the film through their networks to ‘Fund Freedom.’
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the film through the film’s web site will go directly to support the work of agencies to rescue and restore victims of human trafficking, Kooman said.
The film was directed by Kooman’s brothers Matthew Kooman and Daniel Kooman. Principal photography took place in November and December of last year in various locations throughout Thailand.
“Matt and Dan understand the story, and I have a total level of trust that I could hand it over to them with confidence knowing that they will bring something to it that will add to it,” said Andrew, who wrote the screenplay and also serves as one of the producers of the film. “Directing of a story is so different from writing it. You can get so familiar with something as a writer that it’s helpful to have another lens to have a look at your work.
“To me, it’s all about trust. Trusting they will care for it and fight for it as much as you have as the writer. And that’s what Matt and Dan really bring to the table as directors.”
Andrew is also completely impressed with the accomplished cast.
“I could not be more proud of their performances,” he said. “Giovanni Mocibob brings such a power to the role of Jason. I think people will really be able to relate to him.
“He can play an ‘everyman’ and yet he has this screen presence that just commanding. He could totally play that role of a man thrown into circumstances completely beyond his experience and show a compassion and a gravity within the situation that his character is in.
“And Teresa Ting is just a revelation. I think her characterization of 18 is heartbreaking. She brings an innocence and yet sort of a boldness to the character of 18 – she really captures your heart and she’s so believable,” he said. “You will root for her – you will root for both of them. They really humanize the story in a way that’s really profound. I think audiences will be absolutely blown away by their performances. We are proud to have them in the film.”
For Matt, seeing his brother’s vision come to life has been, and continues to be, an amazing, enriching experience.
“The bones of the story had been tested theatrically,” he explained of the play’s enormously successful run. “That was a large ‘litmus’ test that was very helpful. I also think Andrew writes quite visually, so in a lot of ways I think his writing is probably best suited for the screen; for film, so I think the story lended itself well to being adapted to a screenplay.”
Indeed, it’s a lengthy process of pre-production not to mention the intricacies of nailing down the best locations, selecting a top-notch cast and capturing the sensibilities of the story as finely as possible. “Even when we were in Thailand there were moments when I’d think, wow, we have a long road ahead of us,” he recalls with a laugh. “But to be here – it’s been a joy and pleasure to work on. And it’s so fun to see something you have worked so hard on be finished,” he said, adding he’s thrilled with how many more people will be able to be reached via the film in all its future available formats.
And ultimately, the strengths of any film stem from a common source. “Where do you start? With a good story.”
For updates and further details about the film’s release, check out www.shehasanamefilm.com.