“Katerina” is a powerful short film from director Anya Krasnikova that not only raises awareness of the nightmare that is human trafficking, it quite surprisingly uses the hula hoop to help tell the story. Starring hula hoop artist Helen Orford, Katerina was an award winner by Unchosen, an anti-trafficking charity that organizes film campaigns to raise public awareness and combat all forms of human trafficking, forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in the UK and Ireland. The film follows the story of a young Russian girl who travels to the UK with the hope of a better life, only to be sold into sexual slavery.
Philo: Congratulations on the award and can you tell us more about the film and how the idea came about for making a piece about sexual exploitation utilizing hooping and juggling?
Helen: The film’s director, Anya Krasnikova, has been finding ways to portray the subject of sexual exploitation for several years. She has previously made an anti-rape campaign and a short film based on the subject as well. Her love for circus inspired the idea of showing the pain Katerina goes through using choreographed circus pieces. She decided to use juggling and hula hooping in place of the rape and prostitution scenes as she didn’t want to show anything graphic, feeling that through interpretive circus skills the message would be much more poignant.
Philo: I think she did a great job with that. Where is she from?
Helen: She’s originally from the Ukraine, but she’s living and working in Brighton where she is surrounded by the circus and hula hooping scene and this really helped fuel her inspiration too.
Philo: It’s not often that such heavy subject matter comes together with such a playful thing as the hula hoop – but it really works and it is so emotional. What was it like for you playing Katerina?
Helen: Before playing the part of Katerina, I did a lot of research into the subject of human trafficking and explored the emotions that would go hand in hand with such a terrible experience. The director was absolutely great and really helped me get into the right mindset for the film, especially the crying post-rape scene. Everyone in the team was so professional and the whole experience was such a life changing one, to create a piece of work so contrasting to my normal style of hula hooping – which is very fast, including lots of tricks with lots of hoops and is primarily inspired by my traditional circus roots.
Philo: I know, in Katerina we got to see a different side to your hooping and the solo piece is so powerful. Is that something that you choreographed or how did that come together?
Helen: It was choreographed by the wonderfully talented hula hooper Angie Mack and it was created around a completely original musical score composed for this film. After learning the routine at my home in London, I arrived at the set in Brighton a day early to rehearse with Angie. It was so nice to perform under someone else’s direction, as you can really see where both of our hula hooping styles and influences are combined in this piece, to create something completely new and original.
Philo: And you won the Unchosen award in the sexual exploitation category. Congratulations and how has the response been to the film overall?
Helen: Thank you! The greatest concern of both the director and I was that the message of the film would not be conveyed clearly, and people just wouldn’t get it. But thankfully the film was very well understood, and is now helping to raise awareness of a subject matter which very few people know enough about.
Philo: The statistic that there are 27 million slaves today seemed mind boggling to me, only to wind up doing some looking into it online and seeing the statistic as high as 30 million, taking me to sources of great information like Walk Free and Free The Slaves. So glad Anya Krasnikova made this film and that you were a part of it. What’s next for the two of you?
Helen: Anya Krasnikova has been very busy working on other films and is currently writing a feature script and developing her own production company, called AK Studios. And, based in London, I spend my time performing, hula hooping full time at corporate events and in London’s well established cabaret and variety scene.