Mary Mazzio’s I Am Jane Doe (2017) is a truly powerful documentary that brings to light that the issue of human-trafficking is not just a foreign affair, but is in fact happening in our own backyards. The film investigates and chronicles the multiple court cases against Backpage.com and the young girls that were victim to the sex-trafficking occurring on its servers. Supported by a structure of comprehensive research, I Am Jane Doe succeeds in bringing awareness to potential underage sex-trafficking victims. Jessica Chastain’s smooth narration also provides viewers with a cohesive explanation and timeline suitable for this complex topic.
Aside from its impressive investigative journalism, the film presents impactful cinematic techniques. The cinematography, archival footage, and photography is stunning while giving humanized backstories to the victims involved with the lawsuit; Yet, the filmmakers remained respectful to the anonymity requested by certain ‘Jane Doe’ survivors. The greatest asset to the film’s structure was the clarity of the lawsuit’s timeline via an engaging motion graphic. Without it, the multitude of stories from Seattle, Boston, and St. Louis would meld together in an incoherent mess. Despite its visual strengths, I Am Jane Doe did have one glaring weakness.
Overrun with an excessive sympathetic tone, the film neglects to present opposing voices (such as advocates for ‘escort’ services) for a stronger, balanced narrative. However, the film unapologetically embraces this advocacy suggesting there is no counter argument regarding the internet’s loophole for the sexual exploitation of children.
I Am Jane Doe is a solid 8 out of 10. If you are in the mood for an intense documentary, it is available now on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.