"My character (teenager Allison Riley) had just been kidnapped and she's in this new place and was being dragged down a stairway," said Bolden. "I was totally unprepared for how uncomfortable this story would be to put on film."
The trip down the stairway was the easy part. Much more difficult was the uncomfortable weight of the script based on actual true stories of young girls forced into the sex trade.
"Normally, a movie is all pretend," said Bolden, 21. "So even in scary or emotional scenes you can take yourself out of it 'cuz you tell yourself it's not real. But this scene was so many young girls' stories...I wasn't playing pretend anymore."
At times it's also uncomfortable to watch.
"Trafficked" was filmed several years ago when Bolden was still attending Forest Hills Central High School. The film had a theatre premier a year ago but is just now being released in connection with January's designation as National Human Trafficking Awareness month. (The film is not rated. But because of the mature theme, some gun violence, and intensity it may well qualify for a PG-13 designation. I would not recommend it for children).
Although technically not a "faith-based" film, there are spiritual elements which support the characters.
IT'S A BIG ISSUE
A typical suburban teen, Allison begins talking online to a new friend and then agrees to meet him. "Everything goes downhill for her from there," Bolden said.
Her alarmed parents immediately sense something's terribly wrong when Allison turns up missing. Sensing police inability to take prompt action, they hire a rough-hewn private investigator (portrayed by actor Dean Cain) known for bending the rules. That leads to some forceful action and harrowing exploits. (The investigator's character is established in the film's heart-pounding opening scene as he leads an armed raid on a dog-fighting ring).
The story is set in Detroit, revealing its gritty street-scape. But some of the interior and other outdoor scenes were shot in the Holland area.
Trafficking is a problem everywhere – not just in big cities. Locally, both Bethany Christian Services' Trafficking Victim's Assistance Program and Wegewood Christian Services' Manasseh Project are faith-based programs that combine shelter, counseling, therapy, and employment training with a goal of rehabilitation and transitioning the victims back into society.
It's estimated there are millions of trafficking victims in this world-wide industry that grosses $30 billion annually.
The film script includes actions of a bold pastor who with a church group surreptitiously "rescues" teens caught up in the sex trade.
This movie is not for the squeamish. "Trafficked" works through fronts of the horrible conditions and threats suffered by the enslaved young women and the techniques used by captors who "own" the girls and rent them out while taking steps to evade the law.
The film's trailer gives you a hint of the unsettling story .
Bolden took an interest in musical theater and films at a very young age. At age 6 she debuted at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in the production "Footloose."
"They wanted a little girl for the church scene," she smiled.
She also had a role in the Master Arts Theatre production of "Dr. Doolittle" a dozen years ago.
Her first successful film audition was as a 9 year-old: a role in the locally-produced film "The Christmas Bunny."
Sophie acknowledges the support of her parents, Bruce and Jane Bolen of Cascade. "I would not be where I am at all without my mom," she added.
A guest pastor once encouraged her by saying she could be a "carrier of the Kingdom into the entertainment industry."
Bolden has worked in several films with "Trafficked" director Joel Paul Reisig. Also in this film is actress Kristy Swanson (Allison's mother), who appeared most recently in the TV series "Seal Team."
A MIXED CONCLUSION
"Trafficked" ends with at least a partial resolution. But it leaves the viewer aghast at the all-encompassing evil reach of this very human problem. It's not a happily-ever-after tale.
"Allison does get reunited with her family after they think all hope is lost," Bolden said. "There is hope for survivors. But they are so traumatized that nothing will ever be the same for them."