Stolen: Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis as Anthony Carter

THERE are lots of demands on our time.

Too much to do, too little time to do it in.

But if you have time to watch one TV drama this week, then please make it be BBC1’s Stolen.

I met up with leading man Damian Lewis at BBC TV Centre in London earlier this year.

Before later seeing a special preview of the film at the BFI in London.

There’s more to report from Damian on another day.

But first, here’s my MEN TV feature.

Rosemary (Gloria Oyewumi)


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.

“It left me reeling at the thought of just how overwhelming the scale is of the trafficking that comes in and out of this country in human beings…little children.”

The feature length BBC1 film is directed by award-winning Salford-raised Justin Chadwick. He went to great lengths to recruit an extraordinary cast of raw, new child actors. “It was incredibly important to me to go into the communities in Manchester and elsewhere,” says Justin. “I wanted to show it how it is, from the child’s point of view.”

Rosemary (Gloria Oyewumi) is a terrorised 11-year-old girl from West Africa who arrives at Manchester Airport with instructions to destroy her passport and then contact a man who will sell her as a house servant. When she is older, he will buy her back for sale into the sex trade.

“It’s beautiful,” cries an excited Ukranian boy called Georgie, 14, (Inokentijs Vitkevics) as he arrives in the city, a place he believes is the promised land where his dreams will come true.

But the criminals who have brought him here have other plans, selling him as forced labour in an illegal sandwich making factory, where a land of nightmares awaits.

Georgie (Inokentijs Vitkeviks)

A Vietnamese boy called Kim Pak, 15, (Huy Pham) is transported to England, sealed in a container, only to be imprisoned again to tend a cannabis farm. He is locked behind the doors of a suburban home, where night is always a tortured day, thanks to the bright lamps used to grow the crop.

Prepare to shed tears for these children while holding your breath to learn their ultimate fates, and then be left wondering what might be happening under our own noses.

The 90-minute drama is written by Stephen Butchard, who spent seven years working on the project after hearing a short radio news report. Those involved say hundreds of children may be enslaved in the UK but the numbers could be much more.

Stolen features cinematic shots of Manchester and Salford, with locations including Piccadilly Station, Chinatown and Salford Quays. But they simply represent any modern European city where child slaves are hidden from view.

I first saw this remarkable film at a special preview almost two months ago and can guarantee that it will stay with you for some time afterwards. “It’s a very moving film about the overwhelming nature of the problem,” explains Damian, when we meet several weeks before.

“The script is very clever because it charts in a very simple way the journeys of these kids once they come into the country. The criminals involved are very slippery and it’s very difficult to pin the blame on them.

“It makes you look at aeroplanes passing through the sky very differently. Is there a child on that plane that’s just been trafficked from wherever? And I think people who see this film will feel the same way. It goes on all around us in the shadows.”

DI Anthony Carter (Damian Lewis) and DC Manda Healy (Vicky McClure)

Det Insp Carter is a father himself, having just moved to the city with his wife and young schoolgirl daughter. “She is in a new school and is dislocated. That’s in stark contrast to the way these other three children are being treated. It becomes a story about all of our children and the way we treat them. How precious they are.

“It reinforces how lucky we are that by accident of birth we’re born British. We’re born and raised up in a country where we condemn these things, we don’t think they’re right. Other cultures don’t always have the luxury of making those choices, because of extreme hardship.”

He adds: “I’m a parent of two very small children. The thought of trafficking my own child to another country, knowing what it is that they might be going to, for some sort of financial recompense, however destitute and poor I am, however firm the grip the local gangmaster has on me and my family, it’s unthinkable.

“But this happens. Sometimes because they are naive. ‘This man has told me this could be a great opportunity for my young girl or boy. They’ll go and get an eductation in England or wherever.’ And then, of course, the realities are very different.”

The authorities aim to find and rescue children before they vanish from view. “You rely on evidence from people who have suffered at the hands of the gangs and on them telling the truth. There’s a long game that you have to play of bringing people around and getting them to trust you and give you information,” adds Damian.

He insists viewers should not be scared off by the subject matter. “It’s not an overly gruelling watch. Manchester looks beautiful and so filmic. Stunning, actually. You see what a varied and wonderful city it is.

“And there’s a real spine to the story, in this ticking clock element – a man who needs to get to the bottom of the matter before these kids are lost forever in the shadows of the underworld and trafficked to places where we’ll never see them again.”

Does he think this drama can make a difference? “If it can provoke and stimulate and prod people out of their slumbers and out of their complacency, then I think absolutely it can make a difference. I do think it can change things.”

Stolen is on BBC1 at 9pm on Sunday.(July 3)

Stolen: BFI Screening

Stolen BBC1 Site

Update: Stolen BBC Blog: I work with trafficked children

Follow Ian Wylie on Twitter



Filed under News

12 responses to “Stolen: Damian Lewis

  1. Pingback: » New ‘Stolen’ feature at Life of Wylie

  2. Pingback: Stolen – new BBC drama addresses child trafficking « STOP THE TRAFFIK blog spot

  3. STT

    Great interview! We’ve just written a piece for our blog to encourage people to watch Stolen on Sunday. After watching dramas like these and becoming aware of trafficking, we find that people want to know what they can do to help. The campaigns and initiatives STOP THE TRAFFIK runs are great ways to get people active in their communities helping to prevent and stop trafficking locally and around the globe. – Elizabeth, Intern at STOP THE TRAFFIK

  4. Jo

    Inokentijs Vitkevics was particularly good as Georgie and conveyed the feeling of initial hope and then ultimate despair brilliantly. Very thought provoking.

  5. Joel

    You don’t get things like this on TV any more. This film really go to me and actually made me think how lucky I am. I loved this so much and its true.

    Joel 14

  6. Well done BBC for a very well made & thought provoking film! Great to see you are raising awareness of this hideous crime.
    You just needed a link for anyone who has / is effected at the end with a link to 1 of the few charities that are making a differnce i.e

  7. June Anne

    Why are we not looking after our children? Why dont we wake up and spend money on something that actually matters ? Why is there such an obsession with celebrities and the trivia of their lives. I am very interested in child protection and currently reading a thought- provokimg , shocking book called “Policing Innocence” by Rebecca Andrews . We need more information and documentaries like “Stolen “, excellent work BBC . I too thought that the young Ukranian boys story was especially distressing because he did start off with his young exuberance and it progressively disappeared until he was a shell. Action is imperative ! June Anne McKnight

  8. MikeY

    “A fast-paced thriller about a vital and terrifying subject” – A vital and terrifying subject indeed and one which needs a high profile. Fast Paced! I think not. It was like swimming through treacle with your legs tied together. Poor direction and over arty photography as in so many programs now – personally I think a wasted opportunity.

  9. Elizabeth Gonzalez

    This was a great programme. The issue of ‘human trafficking’ is a big issue with me and I find that there is not enough information on it and not enough is being done about it. I hope this programme opened some peoples eyes. It would be great if this could become a series. Anyway, well done BBC1.

  10. Nina Belaieff

    This Drama was extremely important and thankfully the BBC has come up with something that the public need to be made more aware of. I have felt very disturbed since watching it and I wish there was something tangible I could do. The case of the Ukrainian boy in particular got to me – he wasn’t even on the ‘radar’ and ends up as a statistic. He arrives in the country with so much youthful enthusiasm. Then he is sold and worked very hard for some unscrupolous bastard who then refuses to pay him. When he is crying for his mother, having his clothes and shoes taken from him in the middle of winter, and kicked out onto the streets. I was just heartbroken . He was totally alone and invisable to those in the street – he just wanted to work. to earn a little money so that he could buy his Mother a gift, he just wanted a better life. You compare his attitude to so many of our own spoilt, lazy and rude kids. The fate of this poor boy was heartbreaking and surely, so unnecessary. How can this trafficking business be stopped ? Perhaps some of the aid money, wasted to many third world countries, could be redirected to this problem to save some of these poor souls.

    • JLB

      I watched Stolen last night & could have written Nina Belaieff’s response to it myself. I am still haunted by the image of the Ukrainian boy, Georgie (brilliantly acted by Inokentijs Vitkevics), alone & crying on the streets in the freezing cold. Watching his initial hope & enthusiasm being knocked out of him when all he wanted was the normal human desire for a better life was utterly heartbreaking. The drama has highlighted a problem that I was not aware of & something must been done to stop this atrocious practice. God bless the poor little souls who suffer day in & day out at the hands of such monsters.

  11. Pingback: Stolen lives | Hey nonny nonny!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s