Asahi Shimbun: Film to become the ray of hope

Asahi Shimbun 10/31/2018

Kibo no hikari ni naru eiga. Korekara mo.  Film to become the ray of hope.

Dome no Tabibito – Traveler to the Dome

Edited by Tetsuaki Otaki

I came to Hiroshima for the screening of my first documentary feature film, Sands of Silence at the Hiroshima City University.  I have been researching sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Asia and America for over 15 years.  This film shows light on that topic and also reveals the sexual abuse I and some members of my family suffered.

I became a journalist in Japan.  I came to Japan in 1990 as a scholarship student of European Economic Community, and became a Tokyo correspondent for El Mundo, Spanish daily newspaper. In October 1994, I covered the demonstration of the first Korean Comfort Women in front of the Japanese Diet in Tokyo. Their story impacted me and inspired me to keep writing on sexual violence and social justice. In 2008, I started to film this documentary film.

I visited the Peace Memorial Park on October 11th. Standing along the Motoyasu river and looking at the A-Bomb Dome, I remembered my father-in-law.  He was a physicist who had been involved in the Manhattan Project.  He was always reluctant to talk about it.  He was suffering.  As I am here in Hiroshima, I do feel we shall never repeat such tragedy.

In a world where nuclear weapons exist, there are two important things in order to pursue peace.  First, we have to realize that peace lies within our heart.  We need to realize the meaning of life and the purpose of life. Second, all the countries should unite and strongly demand denuclearization.

War is caused by those who have lost touch with their heart.  So are perpetrators of sexual violence and human trafficking. About 300 students came to see the film in Hiroshima.  One of them said, “Your film gives me a ray of hope.” I would like to continue to make such films from now on.

Los Angeles Press Club Screening with Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times

“SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage” is

the LA Press Club’s 2017 SoCal Journalism Awards

Feature Documentary Winner

Exclusive screening of

“SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage”

on April 26

Moderated by Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times

Watch the 34 min. video of the Panel Discussion

“SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage” is the LA Press Club’s 2017 SoCal Journalism Awards Feature Documentary Winner. Through the transformation of sex-trafficking survivor Virginia Isaias into an inspiring advocate, “Sands of Silence” celebrates the triumph of the spirit with a call to action to break the chains of sexual violence worldwide.

“In a searing exploration of the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women worldwide, journalist Chelo Alvarez-Stehle also documents her own relatives’ sexual abuse, as well as her own, as they work through their efforts at coping and healing. A moving, poignant documentary of women learning to deal with the physiological and psychological stresses of abuse.” – LAPC 2017 SoCal Journalism Awards Judge.


#DirectedbyWomen: Breaking the silence on sexual violence

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle: Breaking the silence on sexual violence



Recently #DirectedbyWomen had a chance to delve into conversation with reporter and documentary filmmaker Chelo Alvarez-­Stehle about her moving film Sands of Silence: Waves of Courage and the impact it is having on communities around the world. She also shared the surprising direction her work is leading her to explore next. The topic of sexual abuse and trafficking is challenging. It can feel easier to simply look away, but please take time to receive what Chelo has shared and look for the chance to experience her work. Info about upcoming screenings can be found at the end of the post.

DBW: Your documentary Sands of Silence: Waves of Courage takes on such a powerful subject. It’s multifaceted in its approach, dealing with the nexus of sexual abuse and sexual trafficking. And it takes us deep into the complexities of how these forms of abuse impact not only individuals but families as well.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about how the film is resonating with film audiences and the impact it is having.

CA-S: We’ve felt overwhelmed by the cathartic experiences audiences are having. At every screening people of all ages are going deep into their experiences, bringing past or recent memories, identifying them as abuse, calling them by their name, breaking the silence, so much so that we enlist volunteer therapists or psychologists to attend and be ready at the Q&As with their expertise and resources.

That is why we say that Sands of Silence is “the film that inspires you to break the silence on sexual violence.” Many of those people speak up for the first time.

But after touring Europe and the US with the documentary we know that it also goes beyond that. A college freshman at a university in Spain insisted on talking to me after the screening. She had gone to a physical therapist for a shoulder problem. He convinced her, by showing her information on Google, that he needed to touch a point in her vagina in order to cure her. He ended up inserting a vibrator in her vagina. “Finally something clicked for me and I left. My mother did not believe me, and when she finally did, she went to confront him, but he denied everything. Please help me. Now I have nightmares. I don’t even let my dad approach me. And I want to report him but I don’t know how.” I was able to refer her to an association of women lawyers that provides legal pro bono services to victims.

Often it is those closer to us that don’t believe us.


“Prostitution et Société” magazine, France

“prostitution et société” magazine

Paris, France

avril 2018, par Christine Laouénan

Our first review in French, after our Paris sneak preview on March 19th, hosted by Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, at the Luminor – Hôtel de Ville the historic movie theater in Le Marais, the heart of Paris!

Notre premier article en français, après notre avant-première à Paris le 19 mars, présenté par le Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, au Luminor Hôtel de Ville.

« Lorsque je préparais mon film, les femmes survivantes que j’ai rencontrées se battaient avec une telle énergie contre la traite des êtres humains que j’ai été poussée, à mon tour, à dévoiler ma propre vérité », raconte Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.

Dans ce documentaire qu’elle a mis 15 ans à réaliser, la cinéaste et journaliste espagnole brise le silence autour du trafic sexuel à l’échelle mondiale, mais également autour des abus subis dans sa propre famille. Un silence qui ne profite qu’aux prédateurs et aux trafiquants.


Sands of Silence gets TheWIFTS Award


December 10th


(The Women in Film and Television Showcase)

TheWIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards 2017

West Hollywood, California

TheWIFTS Award Jury’s Comment:

“Sands of Silence is a remarkable film, in that through the potency of its storytelling, it exposes the humanitarian issue both on the surface and beneath, of the suffering of individuals affected by this odious crime. The film has embolden others to speak and  to no longer live in the ‘silence’.”

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and Lala Isaias look at TheWIFTS Award estatuette
TheWIFTS host Actress Julie Carmen shows the Award to Sands of Silence character Lala Isaias as Chelo looks. Photo courtesy TheWIFTS – credit: Joshua Deitell

TheWIFTS Foundation was honored to count with talented and celebrated actress Julie Carmen (Gloria Milagro Beanfield War, Windows on the World) as Mistress of Ceremonies for the 10th anniversary of TheWIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards 2017, celebrating inspirational and outstanding women. These ‘women as individuals’ from around the world will receive Awards for their work in Film, Television and Society.

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle TheWIFTS Award acceptance speech
“Today is December 10th, International Day on Human Rights, and is humbling to receive this Humanitarian award.” Chelo Alvarez-Stehle at TheWIFTS Best Documentary Humanitarian Award acceptance speech. Photo courtesy TheWIFTS – credit: Joshua Deitell

TheWIFTS Mission Statement: To honor outstanding women who continue to “raise the bar” in their respective fields. The Foundation will research noteworthy, unknown or known individuals who have made a difference in their respective communities but have yet to be acknowledged and commended for their extraordinary efforts and positive impact on our society.

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and several awardees of TheWIFTS Award
Several of the 2017 TheWIFTS Awardees (from left to right): Chelo Alvarez-Stehle, Actress Elizabeth Partnow, Producer Valentina Castellani-Quinn, Avatar Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo, TheWIFTS host Actress Julie Carmen, ADI Director Jan Creamer, Slipaway Director Julia Butler, Didi Ananda Kalika. Photo courtesy TheWIFTS – credit: Joshua Deitell
Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and Virginia Isaias hold TheWIFTS Award porcelain estatuette
Sands of Silence director Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and main character Virginia Isaias.

Agnès Films – Film Review of Sands of Silence |

Agnès Films, supporting women and feminist filmmakers recently reviewed, Chelo Alvarez-Stehle’s Sands of Silence, documentary film. The review by Julie Caper Roth, says: “Sands of Silence demonstrates that trauma is not merely the plight of women in far-off lands. It can exist close to home and can only be felled by transparency and communication. The narratives contained within the documentary make this film a helpful resource for individuals and groups tackling the issues of abuse and sex-trafficking.”