A couple years ago, actor Kate Bosworth and her filmmaker husband, Michael Polish, heard about a home not too far from where they lived in Los Angeles that had been busted for sex trafficking.

What started as a news story eventually became central to the Hollywood couple’s lives as they realized human trafficking was happening in seemingly mundane neighborhoods and the houses next door. People — especially women and children — were being abused.

“They are daughters, sisters, friends, mothers. The importance of understanding the HUMANITY of the tragedy is why we made #NONA,” wrote Bosworth in an Instagram caption.

The duo’s film, “Nona,” is made with their production company, Make Pictures. It tells the story of a young girl from Honduras, and follows her journey from an independent life to one of enslavement.

On Tuesday, the Richmond International Film Festival is honoring Bosworth for her work on the movie by presenting her with the distinguished Founder’s Award. The award honors a visionary filmmaker for bringing important stories to light.

We had the chance to catch up with Bosworth and Polish over the phone.

The Lily: What inspired you to create a film about sex trafficking?

Kate Bosworth: This is a tragedy that often falls on the most vulnerable — men and women, but particularly women — from the poorest countries of the world. … We thought it was our artistic responsibility to bring this subject matter more into the conversation. The way we know how to do that is to create film. So Michael came up with this idea of starting with this girl in Honduras. How does this happen to one person?

Michael Polish: I also have a daughter. Kate’s her stepmother. It’s really about the fact that this could be anybody’s kid, this is anybody’s daughter. Seeing my daughter be young and vulnerable in certain areas in her life … she could also [end up] in a house, and be in situation that could compromise her as a human.

A young woman in "Nona" journeys to America with a charming man, Hecho. (Michael Polish)
A young woman in "Nona" journeys to America with a charming man, Hecho. (Michael Polish)

TL: So this was a real labor of love.

KB: We self-financed this movie, and I produced it with Michael. He directed and shot it and wrote it. This was a real birth from concept to delivery, and it really means a lot to us.

It became personal to me as a female filmmaker, because there’s a lot of conflict with our president and the way that he treats women. It happened to collide with when he was voted into office. It was personal to Michael because his mother is from Mexico. She came across the border when she was 4 years old, so there’s this idea of understanding the importance of immigration and what this country means to a lot of people who want to come here. There are people who want to work hard, who want to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Sulem Calderon plays the main character in "Nona." (Michael Polish)
Sulem Calderon plays the main character in "Nona." (Michael Polish)

TL: What approach did you take with the movie?

MP: Being half Mexican and seeing how vulnerable that population is in places like Los Angeles... how does [sex trafficking] happen here? You can see the houses around here. You can see the massage parlors that end up funneling some of this traffic. When you go into these massage parlors, it’s really the entryway into some of these homes. It’s very secretive.

TL: Did you go to any of these massage parlors as research for the movie?

MP: I did some in-the-field work. I did go into one place. [What you see in “Nona”] has the same sort of design of the house that I saw: multiple people housed in one place, sectioned off by blankets and sheets.

Kate Bosworth photographing Michael Polish on set. (Alistair Taylor Young)
Kate Bosworth photographing Michael Polish on set. (Alistair Taylor Young)

TL: Can you tell us what other projects are in the pipeline for you and Michael?

KB: The youth, in general, are important to me. They are our future. I think it’s really important that we support them. The docuseries I’m working on reflects that sentiment, and it’s called “Teen Rogue.” It was inspired by my stepdaughter. It’s something I’m quite serious about.

We’re also working on this other movie, “Tate,” which is about Sharon Tate’s life. We’re working with [her sister] Debra Tate, who is just this absolute warrior. She has become family to me and Michael. We’re putting stories out there that we feel are important and will have an impact in some way.

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