The hard-hitting 2011 documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls explores the disturbing realities of sex trafficking and the modern slave trade. With its gut-wrenching tales of abuse and exploitation, Nefarious aims to raise awareness and inspire action.
But with its Christian production company and targeted messaging, some question if Nefarious should be viewed as a faith-based film. If you need a quick answer: While not overtly labeled a Christian movie, Nefarious was created by Christians for a Christian audience to promote faith-driven activism against injustice.
Its moral message aligns with Christian values but comes from a human rights perspective.
In this in-depth article, we’ll examine the origins and content of Nefarious, analyzing how its production background, messaging, and reception tie into Christianity. Looking at the film from several angles, we’ll determine what qualifies it as a Christian movie or simply a film promoting compassion compatible with that faith.
Production and Distribution Rooted in Christian Networks
The documentary film Nefarious, which delves into the dark world of human trafficking, has strong ties to the Christian community both in its production and distribution. The filmmakers behind Nefarious are evangelical Christians who sought to mobilize the faith community and raise awareness about this pressing issue.
Filmmakers are evangelical Christians wanting to mobilize the faith community
The filmmakers of Nefarious, Benjamin Nolot and Jason Pamer, have a deep-rooted faith that motivated them to tackle the issue of human trafficking. As committed Christians, they wanted to use their skills and platform to bring attention to this global problem and inspire action within their own community.
Their faith played a significant role in shaping the documentary’s narrative and messaging, making it resonate strongly with Christian audiences.
Initial distribution targeted Christian conferences, churches, colleges
When Nefarious was first released, the filmmakers strategically targeted Christian conferences, churches, and colleges as their primary distribution channels. They recognized that these venues would provide the ideal platform to engage with the faith community and spark conversations about the issue of human trafficking.
By screening the documentary at these events, they were able to reach a large and receptive audience, igniting a passion for change and encouraging individuals to get involved.
Mainstream outlets like Netflix picked it up later
Although Nefarious initially gained traction within Christian networks, its impact extended far beyond these communities. The documentary’s powerful message and compelling storytelling caught the attention of mainstream outlets, including popular streaming platform Netflix.
This wider distribution allowed Nefarious to reach a broader audience, raising awareness about human trafficking among viewers who may not have been exposed to the issue otherwise.
Messaging Aligns with Christian Ethics on Sex and Justice
The documentary Nefarious addresses the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and its impact on individuals and society. While the film does not explicitly label itself as a Christian movie, its messaging aligns closely with Christian ethics on sex and justice.
Film condemns commercial sexual exploitation as morally wrong
Nefarious takes a strong stance against the commercial sexual exploitation industry, highlighting its moral wrongness. The film exposes the dark underbelly of sex trafficking and the devastating effects it has on the lives of victims.
By shedding light on this issue, Nefarious appeals to Christian values that emphasize the inherent worth and dignity of every individual.
The documentary challenges the notion that prostitution is a choice, instead framing it as a result of coercion, manipulation, and desperation. This perspective resonates with Christian teachings that emphasize the importance of justice, compassion, and the protection of the vulnerable.
Connects sex trafficking to larger injustice issues that faith opposes
Nefarious goes beyond just highlighting the issue of sex trafficking and connects it to larger issues of injustice that faith traditions, including Christianity, oppose. The film explores the intersectionality of sex trafficking with poverty, gender inequality, and systemic injustice.
By doing so, Nefarious invites viewers to consider the broader social, economic, and cultural factors that contribute to the perpetuation of sexual exploitation.
The documentary’s focus on the underlying causes of sex trafficking aligns with Christian teachings on social justice and the call to address systemic issues that perpetuate inequality and oppression.
It encourages viewers to reflect on how they can actively work towards combating these injustices in their own communities.
Explicitly Christian messaging is minimal, but values implicitly resonate
While Nefarious does not heavily emphasize explicitly Christian messaging, its values implicitly resonate with those of the Christian faith. The film highlights the importance of love, compassion, and the pursuit of justice – all key principles found in Christianity.
By focusing on the stories and experiences of survivors, Nefarious evokes empathy and compassion, qualities that are central to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The film encourages viewers to see the humanity in those affected by commercial sexual exploitation and to take action to support and uplift them.
Reviews Praise its Message While Questioning Claims
When it comes to the documentary Nefarious, opinions are divided. While some argue that it is a powerful Christian movie that sheds light on the dark world of sex trafficking, others question the accuracy of its claims and its potential to cross the line into propaganda.
Let’s take a closer look at the reviews from both Christian and secular audiences.
Many Christian audiences found the film impactful and eye-opening
For many Christian viewers, Nefarious struck a chord. The film’s raw and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of sex trafficking left a lasting impact on its audience. It brought to light the unimaginable suffering endured by victims and highlighted the urgent need for action and advocacy.
Christian organizations and communities rallied behind the film, using it as a tool to raise awareness and support for anti-trafficking initiatives.
One reviewer on Christianity Today described the film as “a wake-up call for Christians to engage with the issue of sex trafficking.” Another reviewer on Plugged In praised the documentary for its “gut-wrenching honesty” and commended it for not shying away from the harsh realities of the sex industry.
Secular organizations identified exaggerations but still found lessons
While Nefarious received praise from Christian audiences, secular organizations approached the film with a more critical eye. Some reviewers identified exaggerations in the documentary’s claims, arguing that it may undermine its credibility and hinder the overall message.
However, they acknowledged that the film still succeeded in raising awareness about an important issue.
A review on Vice pointed out that although some statistics presented in the documentary may be inflated, the film still served as a valuable introduction to the complex issue of sex trafficking. Another review on The Hollywood Reporter acknowledged the film’s emotional impact but cautioned viewers to research the claims made in the documentary independently.
Debate continues on whether it crosses line into propaganda
The question of whether Nefarious crosses the line into propaganda is a topic of ongoing debate. Some argue that the film’s strong Christian perspective limits its reach and potential impact on a wider audience.
They raise concerns that the documentary may be seen as pushing a certain ideology rather than presenting an objective exploration of the issue.
On the other hand, supporters of the film argue that its Christian perspective is an integral part of its message. They believe that faith-based initiatives are crucial in fighting against sex trafficking and that Nefarious serves as a call to action for Christians to get involved.
Ultimately, whether Nefarious is considered a Christian movie or a documentary with a Christian perspective may vary depending on one’s viewpoint. What remains undeniable is the importance of addressing the issue of sex trafficking and the impact the film has had in raising awareness and inspiring action.
Ultimately Used as a Faith-Based Conversation Starter
The documentary Nefarious, while not explicitly a Christian movie, has been widely used as a conversation starter within Christian institutions. It sparks discussions about human rights issues and the role of faith in combating injustice.
This thought-provoking film addresses the dark reality of human trafficking and sheds light on the need for action and advocacy.
Sparks discussion at Christian institutions about human rights issues
Nefarious serves as a catalyst for important conversations about human rights and the Christian response to social injustices. Christian colleges, churches, and organizations often use the film as a tool to raise awareness and engage their communities in discussions about the moral imperative to fight against human trafficking.
By shining a spotlight on this pervasive issue, the documentary encourages believers to examine their own role in promoting justice and compassion.
Seen as a call to action for people of faith to combat injustice
For many viewers, Nefarious goes beyond mere entertainment and serves as a call to action. The film challenges people of faith to confront the reality of modern-day slavery and take steps to combat it.
Inspired by the stories and experiences shared in the documentary, individuals and communities are motivated to support anti-trafficking organizations, advocate for stronger legislation, and provide resources for victims of human trafficking.
More a conversation piece than pure entertainment
Nefarious is not your typical feel-good movie; it is a powerful conversation piece that encourages viewers to grapple with the uncomfortable truths of human trafficking. The film’s purpose is not solely to entertain but to educate and inspire change.
While it may not appeal to those seeking light-hearted entertainment, it offers a unique and thought-provoking experience that challenges the viewer’s perspective on important social issues.
Ultimately, Nefarious serves as a faith-based conversation starter, igniting discussions about human rights, the role of faith in combating injustice, and the importance of taking action. It is a powerful tool that prompts believers to examine their own response to the global crisis of human trafficking and encourages them to make a difference in the lives of those affected.
While not explicitly labeled or marketed as Christian entertainment, the hard-hitting documentary Nefarious has strong enough ties to evangelical Christian filmmakers, distribution channels, and messaging that it is reasonably viewed as a faith-based conversation starter.
Its appeal to morality and justice aligns with Christian values even as its focus remains on human rights rather than religion. More a call to action than pure entertainment, Nefarious ultimately serves as a thought-provoking film that speaks powerfully to people of faith about critical social justice issues.