Sex Traffic

Sex Traffic is a two-part British-Canadian television thriller, written by Abi Morgan and directed by David Yates, that first broadcast on Channel 4 on 14 October 2004.[1] The series, produced by Veronica Castillo and Derek Wax, stars John Simm as Daniel Appleton, a journalist who uncovers a trafficking ring involving Anti-Trafficking officers employed by a private security company in the United States. As Daniel vows to help Elena (Anamaria Marinca), one of the trafficked girls, he attempts to expose the business which forces young women from Eastern Europe into a life of sexual slavery.

Sex Traffic
Written byAbi Morgan
Directed byDavid Yates
ComposerJonathan Goldsmith
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
Original languages
  • English
  • Albanian
  • Italian
  • Romanian
No. of episodes2
Executive producers
  • David MacLeod
  • Michele Buck
  • Wayne Grigsby
  • Veronica Castillo
  • Derek Wax
CinematographyChris Seager
EditorMark Day
Running time90 minutes (per episode)
Production companyBig Motion Pictures
Original networkChannel 4
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
Original release14 October (2004-10-14) 
21 October 2004 (2004-10-21)

The series was filmed between London, Bucharest and Nova Scotia.[2] The series was also broadcast on CBC in Canada during October 2004. Notably, despite winning the BAFTA award for Best Actress, Sex Traffic was actress Anamaria Marinca's first credited television role.[3] Overall, the series won a total of eight BAFTAs, including Best Drama Serial, and four Gemini Awards.[4] The series was released on DVD on September 4, 2006.[5]


The expulsion of Sergeant Callum Tate (Luke Kirby), an Anti-Trafficking officer working in Bosnia, sparks concern for multi-national private security company Kernwell, headed up by Tom Harlsburgh (Chris Potter). Having been caught seemingly trying to procure a prostitute for $2,000, Tate's actions have threatened to throw the entire company into disrepute, just as the directors are on the brink of signing an $8 million contract to provide private security in Iraq. Tate denies the allegations, claiming that he was trying to free Anya Petria (Alexandra Fasola), a student who had been trafficked from Romania and forced to work as a prostitute. Tate claims that a number of Kernwell officers, including Major James Brooke (Robert Joy) are involved in a trafficking ring involving the enslavement of young women seeking refuge from their own countries in the hope of finding a better life in the West. Kernwell order a press blackout, preventing Tate's suspension or any of the allegations made reaching the press.

Meanwhile, Daniel Appleton (John Simm), a journalist working for London-based charity Speak For Freedom, travels to Bosnia to report on Kernwell's activities, and whilst there, he witnesses a number of Anti-Trafficking officers having sex with prostitutes at a local bar. But before he can report his findings, the bar is raided and information is spread to suggest that he was caught having sex with a prostitute, Elena Visinescu (Anamaria Marinca), at the time of the raid. Appleton refutes the allegations, but is ordered to cease investigation into Kernwell by his boss, Joan Stewart (Alison Peebles). Appleton decides to continue privately investigating Kernwell, and discovers that shortly after leaving Bosnia to head for Europe, Anya's body was found washed up on the shores of an Italian beach. After becoming separated from her sister, Elena heads for London to find Appleton. With Elena's help, Appleton sets out to expose the corrupt officers working for the Anti-Trafficking unit and bring Kernwell to book.


  • John Simm as Daniel Appleton
  • Anamaria Marinca as Elena Visinescu
  • Maria Popistașu as Vara Visinescu
  • Chris Potter as Tom Harlsburgh
  • Wendy Crewson as Madeleine Harlsburgh
  • Len Cariou as Magnus Herzoff
  • Maury Chaykin as Ernie Dwight
  • Luke Kirby as Sergeant Callum Tate
  • Robert Joy as Major James Brooke
  • Alison Peebles as Joan Stewart
  • Dan Astileanu as Deputy Chief Rudi Lascar
  • Razvan Vasilescu as Colonel Matteo Giusto
  • Jason Watkins as Inspector Lucas Reese
  • John Sharian as Barry Edwards
  • Rodica Negrea as Luiba Visinescu
  • Carlotta Natoli as Dr. Lola Carizonne
  • Barbara Eve Harris as Audrey Dupoint
  • Alexandra Fasola as Anya Petria
  • Ephraim Ellis as Billy Harlsburgh
  • Nikki Barnett as Leah Harlsburgh
  • Arben Bajraktaraj as Thaki
  • Emil Hostina as Severin
  • Elina Löwensohn as Maria Danielski
  • Zoltan Butuc as Petre Danielski


Sex Traffic received critical acclaim across the board, with the British Film Institute's Screenonline writing; "As in his previous television work, including his adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now which drew parallels between its ruthless Victorian entrepreneur hero and modern media tycoons, and the fine conspiracy thriller, State of Play, director David Yates gives a thrilling and complicated narrative a strong social and political dimension. The brutality of brothel life is tellingly juxtaposed with the ethics of Boston business, which is lavish with its charity while turning a knowingly blind eye to corruption. Sex Traffic is impeccably photographed, edited and scored."[6]

The Daily Telegraph wrote, "Sex Traffic is brutally honest in its treatment of a distressing subject, but it's this very honesty that makes it such a vital drama. It does indeed go to the heart of the audience, and its dark images stay with you for a long, long time. Difficult viewing, yes, but essential."[1] Empire commented that Sex Traffic was a "courageous, shocking piece of work", while The Guardian called it "a gripping thriller".[7] John Simm commented, "Watching Sex Traffic is not a horrible experience, because it works well as a thriller, so it's exciting and you are always gunning for the good guys – but you can't escape the fact that it's a depressing subject matter."[1]

See also


  1. Raphael, Amy (10 October 2004). "Slavery tale for the 21st century" via
  2. "Sex Traffic (TV Mini-Series 2004)" via
  3. "Sex Traffic (TV Mini-Series 2004)" via
  4. "Channel 4's 'Sex Traffic' and 'Shameless' scoop top honours at Bafta". The Independent. 18 April 2005.
  5. "Sex Traffic". 4 September 2006 via Amazon.
  6. "BFI Screenonline: Sex Traffic (2004)".
  7. IFC Films Archived 7 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
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