“If there wasn’t such a need, there wouldn’t be so much business, now, would there?”
A fairytale about child sex trafficking? Yes, a fairytale. That’s exactly what The Candy Shop is: a short fantasy film that aims to fuel the growing anti-slavery movement in Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta is the number one city in the U.S. for child sex trafficking, and number 10 worldwide. Approximately 500 young girls are trafficked and 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent females in Georgia each month. Director Brandon McCormick greatly wrestled with these facts: how could so many children be victims of sex crimes no more than 20 minutes from his home?
McCormick got involved with a group called Street Grace which works to unite churches with public, private, and social sectors to abolish the sexual exploitation of minors in Atlanta. Wanting to use his talents as a director and storyteller to shed light on this issue, his group of talented film makers at Whitestone Motion Pictures put their heads together to create The Candy Shop.
Presented in a dark steampunk style, The Candy Stop is a pre-depression-era Hansel and Gretel. Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) plays The Candyman (picture Willy Wonka meet Pennywise the Clown). Townsfolk are curious about the new candy shop and the dark figure greeting men at its door selling decorated lollipops, but it’s young Jimmy (played by Mattie Liptak) who discovers the The Candyman’s secret. Deep the basement of his shop is the Candyman’s magical machine that turns little girls into tasty treats.
There are many layers to this cinematic parable. “Candy,” of course, has its own sexual overtones in American culture. But more than this, the film shows how when young girls enter The Candyman’s machine—i.e. the underground sex trade—they are turned from human beings into commodities, something to be bought, sold, and consumed. The use of a machine in The Candyman’s dirty work is also a very fitting parallel to the Internet, which not only facilitates the buying and selling of children, but also fuels the demand for consumer-sex through the proliferation of pornography.
At one point in the film, Jimmy is tempted by The Candyman to join him in his exploits—much the same way young men are lured into a pimping lifestyle on the streets of Atlanta with the promise of money and power—but after one of Jimmy’s own friends is trapped by The Candyman, Jimmy sees through his cellophane lies and takes action.
In a way, you might say each film-viewer is Jimmy: will we choose to become consumers in the sex business with our flippant mouse-clicks (or worse), or will we choose to become activists? When will we take a stand?
Learn More and Take Action:
- Support the Stop the Candy Shop campaign.
- See photos from the Stop the Candy Shop campaign premier at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.
- Watch behind-the-scenes footage from the making of The Candy Shop.
- Watch “How to Stop the Candy Shop” from Public Broadcasting Atlanta.
- Watch Abolition, a documentary about Atlanta’s sex trade from Innocence Atlanta.
Watch the Trailer:
Watch the Full Movie:
(Though dark, the film itself has no sexual content.)