Benjamin Ryan Nathan is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York. Early in his career Ben served as editor on a series of over 70 short films created with renowned documentarian Ken Burns. Over the past two decades, he has worked in film, TV, advertising, and digital media, and has produced, directed, & edited over 200
commercials, viral videos, short-form documentaries, & brand projects. His work has garnered over 25MM views online and on television.
Dedicated to using the art of filmmaking as a tool to better the planet, he has collaborated with major organizations including UN Environment Programme, Sesame Workshop, Natural Resources Defense Council, the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, American Cancer Society, and Human Rights First to bring inspiring and powerful stories of human transformation to a broad audience. Ben has written & directed groundbreaking films and campaigns, working with top celebrity talent including Martin Sheen, Debra Messing, James Corden, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jane Fonda, Adrian Grenier, Blythe Danner, Gisele Bündchen, Don Cheadle, and James Cromwell.
In 2012, Ben founded ALL OF US FILMS to bring together top creative talent to create media that makes a profound positive impact in today’s world. Under his leadership, ALL OF US FILMS has forged strategic partnerships with organizations and individuals throughout the nonprofit, social enterprise, and entertainment communities to collaborate on projects that entertain, educate, inspire, and unite.
"IN THIS FILM, YOU WILL LEARN THAT LABOR TRAFFICKING DOES, IN FACT, EXIST IN JUST ABOUT EVERY TOWN IN AMERICA, IN JUST ABOUT EVERY INDUSTRY... THIS FILM NEEDS TO BE MADE SO THAT ALL THESE STORIES CAN BE TOLD. JOIN ME AND DIRECTOR BEN NATHAN IN SUPPORTING THIS DOCUMENTARY IN ANY WAY YOU CAN, SO THAT TOGETHER, WE CAN EXPOSE THIS INSIDIOUS, IMMORAL, 21ST-CENTURY INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY IN OUR MIDST. YOU ARE ALL WELCOME TO JOIN US, TO BE FREE."
CLICK TO VIEW A MESSAGE FROM ACTOR & ACTIVIST, AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, MARTIN SHEEN
We see them every day, in restaurants, beauty salons, and inside our homes. They work among us, in plain sight, but go unseen. America is the ‘land of the free,’ a beacon of hope for countless immigrants and citizens looking to build a better life. But for the tens of thousands of people enslaved through labor trafficking each year in the United States, these streets are not paved with gold. In the most developed nation in the world, how do we close the legal loopholes that enable the continued exploitation of our fellow people?
There are some things in life that you can’t unsee.
I considered myself a well-educated, NPR-listening, activist filmmaker; but, a chance encounter with a family of survivors in early 2017 opened my eyes to something I knew nothing about.
I was in Ohio directing a PSA for an organization that prevents blindness, which featured the D’Souza family. During the course of the interview, we veered off-topic to discuss how the family ended up in the US from India. Harold D’Souza matter-of-factly told me the story of his family’s immigration to the United States and their horrific experience being enslaved for over 18 months, forced to work in an Indian restaurant in Cincinnati. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had naively thought that labor trafficking was something that happened overseas, and felt compelled to learn more about the depth and breadth of the problem.
Slave labor has, as we know, been a part of US history since far before our inception as a nation, but it continues to thrive as one of the supporting pillars in our economy today.
News of human trafficking has rightfully found its way into the mainstream national conversation over the last decade, with the media telling stories of forced labor overseas and sex trafficking here at home. More recently, filmmakers have taken on the topic of forced prison labor, which thrives under the 13th amendment to the Constitution.
But rarely, if ever, do we hear about labor trafficking on US soil, and when we do, it barely scratches the surface.
Labor trafficking in the United States is pervasive. It is not a one-off problem that happens occasionally. It is deeply embedded in our communities, in our corporations, and in the laws that inadvertently enable trafficking. It is something that touches all of our lives, directly or indirectly, aware or unaware. The clothing we wear, the products we buy, the food we consume – we are all unwittingly benefiting from the labor trafficking industry.
As a filmmaker, as a citizen, and as a father, I feel it is my responsibility to help shine a light on this issue, to share the lived experiences of survivors who wish to speak out, to expose the tactics that individuals and corporations use to entrap innocent victims, and to highlight solutions to the problem, such as how we can close the legal loopholes by which traffickers systematically exploit the world’s most vulnerable human beings.
The reality is, it doesn’t matter where you were born, the color of your skin, your religion, or your level of education; as will be shown in our film, labor trafficking does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone. My goal with TO BE FREE is that once audiences see it, they won’t be able to unsee it; they will become advocates and will work to finally eliminate slavery, in all of its forms, from our society.