Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"The Whistleblower" with Rachel Weisz,David Strathairn, and Vanessa Redgrave (2011)

This is a very difficult film to watch. That difficulty is not due to anything on the part of the filmmaker, nor is it the fault of any of the actors in this searing look at the underbelly of the United Nations in the aftermath of the tragedy of the War in Bosnia. The discomfort comes, instead, from having to acknowledge the reality of "man's inhumanity to man." In this case, that inhumanity takes the form of "sex trafficking", and the inability, and in some cases unwillingness, to do anything to stop it.

When we send United Nations forces to the most troubled spots on Earth; places like the Sudan, Beirut, etc., we all seem to slip into what I call "the comfort zone." In other words, the problem is being handled. But that isn't always the case, as this film so scathingly points out.

When local Police Officer Kathryn Bolkovac, played with real grit by Rachel Weisz, leaves her ex-husband and daughters behind in Nebraska, she thinks she is going to be helping to rebuild a war torn country which is teeming with religious strife. She is eager to help restore the country. She is also very happy to accept the $100,000 paycheck that goes along with the 6 month assignment. But almost immediately upon arrival in Bosnia, she is appalled at the level of apathy she encounters at every turn as she tries to make a difference.

When she stumbles upon a "sex-trafficking" ring, and attempts to help the victims, she is reminded that her status "in country" prohibits her from making any real difference. She is merely an "observer". As she delves deeper into the truth, getting closer and closer to the real story of what happens to these victims, she places herself in some very real danger.

Her colleagues; some of whom are involved with the women, as well as the trafficking; and her bosses, all distance themselves from her, knowing that to try and make any difference is both futile, and dangerous. As for the victims she is trying to help, they are so terrified that they are reluctant to make any statements, or file any charges, realizing that to do so would mean certain death.

The real tragedy of this film is that it is based on true events. Doubling that tragedy is the fact that the business of "sex-trafficking" goes on, unabated, almost 20 years after the events in Bosnia. With special features, including a short biopic on the real life Kathy Bolkovac, this film will leave you somewhat worried over the "human condition" in the 21st century. With so much knowledge, and a dearth of technology, one has to ask how, and why, these crimes still continue today.

Absolutely flawless direction by Larysa Kondracki makes this a tightly wound film, which will have you riveted, from the opening scene until the last credits roll. In between, you will be wondering about how the world seems to remain so indifferent to this subject. And when it is over, you will be saddened, as you realize that no one seems to care.

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