Noble in intentions and haphazard in execution, “Call + Response” is a passionate documentary on human trafficking, crossbred with telethon-like musical performances. The brainchild of activist musician and first-time filmmaker Justin Dillon, pic is remarkably informative yet gracelessly constructed, jumping between documentary and concert footage at random. What these two parts have to do with one another is hard to discern, and intercutting images of sickly adolescent sex slaves and well-dressed indie-rock kids provokes an odd tonal whiplash. But pic, which opened Oct. 10 in limited release, succeeds in its aim to raise awareness of a genuinely disturbing issue.
Dillon is clearly sincere in his commitment to the cause, making the most of his limited budget and filmmaking expertise. Madeleine Albright and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof give firsthand accounts of human trafficking, as do actresses Julia Ormond and Ashley Judd, who both seem considerably better informed than the average celebrity activist. The performances are energetic and well shot, although there is too little of rapper Talib Kweli and too much of novelty reggae act Matisyahu. Controversial academic Cornel West provides the most animated, if questionably relevant, commentary.