SADHVI SIDDHALI SHREE — PRODUCER & DIRECTOR
Stopping Traffic marks the feature film debut of Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, an international activist for social change, speaker and author (31 Days to a Changed You, Shine Through Wisdom). A victim of childhood sexual abuse herself at the age of six by a workman painting the family home, Shree is passionate about social movements, particularly those focused on gender equality, non-violence, human rights and youth.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Shree, 33, earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from California State University, Long Beach, and is a U.S. Army veteran, serving six years, including 16 months as a combat medic in the ambulance platoon in Iraq, reaching the rank of Sergeant.
Shree was the first North American Jain monk, taking her vows in 2008 and helping establish the Siddhayatan Tirth Spiritual Retreat that same year in Windom, Texas (near Dallas), where she now resides, serving as the ashram’s Spiritual Director.
Jainism, like Hinduism and Buddhism, is one of the three most-ancient Indian religious traditions and an integral part of South Asian religious belief and practice with estimated 20 million followers, the majority of whom reside in India, though there are communities present around the world. Jainism emphasizes asceticism and practices monasticism under the Five Great Vows (non-violence, truth, celibacy, non-stealing and non-possession).
Having taken a vow of monkhood, Shree utilized a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, launched in 2015, raising $25,482, and enlisted the volunteer time of dozens of supporters in order to bring her vision to life and to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. All proceeds from the film will fund the movement to end human trafficking. Recalls Shree, I knew something happened to me as a kid, but I didn’t know what. I had a total recall in October 2013, relived the entire experience and had to go through my own healing process. Helping other girls forced me to face that and how could I not share my own story? A lot of people don’t do anything because they don’t feel they are capable or have the experience or expertise … Our message is everyone can do something.
It was hard to fundraise with no experience in filmmaking. We didn’t know anything. But we shouldn’t allow that to stop us from doing something for the betterment of humanity. If you really believe and care, you’ll figure it out. You don’t need to have a lot of money or a big platform. Once you experience pain or hear someone else’s story of pain, that’s when it touches you and you are inspired to do something.
I’ve always wanted to help kids who are abused or lost their parents, says Shree, who lost her own mother at age 13. No politics … I’m here and I was in the military because I want to help people regardless of who they are. We had a simple desire to make a difference for this cause, to launch a movement to end this atrocity.