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From The Irish Times (Beware of spoilers!):

Stolen (BBC1, Sunday), a thought-provoking and moving drama about child trafficking into Britain, managed to stay – just – on the fine line that runs in these heavily themed films between information and entertainment, largely thanks to the powerful performances of the child actors Gloria Oyewumi, Huy Pham and Inokentijs Vitkevics.

Damian Lewis was Detective Carter from Manchester police’s human trafficking unit working on a case that started when an 11-year-old West African child was found alone at the airport. Three different stories of trafficking, linked only by Carter, told the story. There was Rosemary, the silent, resilient 11-year-old who thought she was coming to England for an education but ended up being sold for £4,000 to an African family to be used as a house servant; Kim Pak from Vietnam, imprisoned in a cannabis-growing house in suburbia; and 14-year-old Ukranian Georgie, whose dreams of starting a new life end with enslavement in a sandwich-making factory …

The use of a split screen to show the contrast between Carter’s care for his own young daughter and the unprotected, exploited lives of the trafficked children was a little heavy-handed, and the unequal time given to the three stories was puzzling. Rosemary and Georgie’s stories were told in full, while Kim Pak’s story was little more than a distant sub-plot fading in and out of the film, so that it was difficult to care or even understand much about his plight.

For a drama keen to expose facts, there were twists that strained credibility … Still the drama threw a little light onto a difficult subject, without quite being the thriller it was billed as.

From the Telegraph:

Instead, they offer us something as good as Stolen (BBC One) and end it with a few pages of credits that I, a speedy reader, couldn’t read half of. There were ways that Stolen could have been better. To those who have been faced with the dreadful results, it might seem that child-trafficking is the product of an indifferent society, but the more complicated truth is that society, whether it cared or not, would find it hard to do something about it. It’s one thing to underline the dilemma presented by the awkward fact that the law protects the rights of criminals, but another to suggest, as the final scenes of the show did, that a young person could fall unconscious in public and the public would not react.

Scenes like that looked like painting the dark darker, but the show was redeemed and made serious by some wonderful acting, especially from Damian Lewis, the leading man. After Band of Brothers he was set fair for an all-American career, but he decided to spend some of his time with us, with the result that he has been in some pretty dreary stuff. This programme was worthy of him.

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Damian Lewis on the Misery of Human Trafficking Exposed in New Manchester TV Drama – July 4, 2011

‘It’s heartbreaking’: Damian Lewis on the misery of human trafficking exposed in new Manchester TV drama

Damian Lewis stars in Stolen a distressing new TV drama filmed in Manchester and Salford which is based on the work of a police unit combating human trafficking.

by Ian Wylie – Manchester Evening News – 4 JUL 2011

Damian Lewis

Once upon a time, each and every day in fact, children are being trafficked into the UK and put to work. Unpaid, unprotected, unseen. So begins a shocking, disturbing and sometimes distressing TV drama. Filmed in Manchester and Salford, Stolen is a gripping thriller based on a reality hidden away from our everyday view.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” reflects Band of Brothers star Damian Lewis, who plays Det Insp Anthony Carter, head of a human trafficking unit racing against time to save child slaves.

Continue reading Damian Lewis on the Misery of Human Trafficking Exposed in New Manchester TV Drama – July 4, 2011

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More ‘Stolen’ Reviews

Excerpts from a few reviews below. Warning: The Guardian review contains spoilers regarding a character’s death.

The Guardian

Also very good was Stolen (BBC1, Sunday), Stephen Butchard’s gritty thriller about child trafficking, with a strong performance by Damian Lewis as the well-meaning but ineffective DI Carter trying to stand up alone against a tide of international slavery. The child actors were excellent too – the young girl who plays Rosemary, a picture of shyness and terror, and the boy who is Georgie, the sweet lad from eastern Europe.

From The Independent

Stolen, BBC1’s one-off child-trafficking thriller, was a project worthy of Lewis’s talents. Written by Stephen Butchard (House of Saddam, Five Daughters) and directed by Justin Chadwick (Bleak House), it had impeccable provenance and, sure enough, even the title sequence squeaked with quality: lovingly composed photography, gorgeously bleak production design. Thanks, too, to some judicious editing, we were introduced within minutes to each of the wretched protagonists: Rosemary, a young girl fresh off the plane from Lagos on her way to domestic slavery; Georgie, an androgynous tyke condemned to clean up after the workers in a sandwich factory, and for no reward; and Kim Pak, a Vietnamese teen dreaming of escape from his gangmaster’s suburban marijuana farm.

From the

I WAS about to say there was an awful lot to enjoy about Stolen, except “enjoy” is probably not the ideal word to use about a drama about the harrowing subject of child trafficking. So let’s go with “admire” instead.

There was an awful lot to admire about Stolen, not least Damian Lewis as policeman DI Anthony Carter. Lewis was excellent, imbuing a character that was essentially a blank sheet with a compassion, controlled anger and inner life that wasn’t always obvious in Stephen Butchard’s uneven script.

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New preview and article from the Telegraph:

So in the opening scenes we meet Rosemary, an African girl who has just landed at a British airport. On arrival, she follows the instructions from her “buyers”, flushing her passport away so that she is effectively untraceable. From that point on, the gang has the upper hand, explains Lewis.

The actor prepared for his role by shadowing a real-life human trafficking unit in London. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect trafficking, “the child will find some measure of safety within a government house,” he explains. “If not, they go to private carers.”

The child – in this case Rosemary – tries to escape from her carers so that she can contact the gang on a memorised number (they plan to make her a house servant, with a view to selling her on as a sex worker when she is older). The whole process is oiled by fear, says Lewis. “It’s especially hard with these African girls because they will have had ‘juju’ rituals performed on them [before the trip], to make them believe they’ll die if they don’t follow orders,” he says. “These are girls who have had blood taken from them, mixed with hair cuttings and nail clippings. They’re then doused in it, and a ceremony is performed by a priest.

“And they live in fear. One fact I learned was that it can take two years to break down even an adult, to re-educate her against the juju. So it’s a very complicated psychological problem and it relies on the police being able to elicit trust so they can get to the truth.”

There’s also this from the Associated Press:

Damian Lewis has revealed he’s developed an “American persona” for working in the US.

The flame-haired actor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks-produced Band Of Brothers in 2001, had a two-year stint playing a detective in the US NBC series Life.

“It’s got to a point where I go shopping at the weekends and stay as an American, and then I find myself talking to an English person and that’s when I feel ridiculous,” he admitted.

“But in America more often than not I naturally wake up in an American accent.”

Damian, who has two children with actress wife Helen McCrory, wasn’t too devastated when Life was cancelled after two series.

“I think my wife was secretly relieved… actually very publicly relieved. She’d had enough. We were both taken by surprise by the amount of time we were kept apart because of the workload,” he said.

“I was having the life of Riley because I was working on something that I was committed to, but it was hard. Our son Gulliver was born there – so he’ll be president one day – but I didn’t see them enough.”

The star is back with Stolen, a new one-off TV drama about human trafficking in the UK, which airs on BBC One on Sunday July 3.