Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Movie Review: The Whistleblower (2010)
A story of modern day human sex trafficking based on real events, The Whistleblower is an earnest and harrowing examination of a systemic abuse that the world prefers to ignore. The film perhaps achieves its purpose too well, leaving behind an empty feeling of overwhelming helplessness.
Once in Bosnia, Kathryn proves to be a champion of local women's causes and is promoted to head a department in charge of gender affairs.
She then stumbles across bars employing Ukraininan women held against their will and forced into protitution to pay off supposed debts. Both the local police force and the commanders of the UN mission are aware of the abuse, and indeed some of the UN personnel are active participants in exploiting the girls. When Kathryn tries to help Raya, one of the sex slaves, the attempt backfires and Raya faces even worse abuse from her captors. Kathryn seeks help from advocate Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) and internal affairs officer Peter Ward (David Strathairn) to blow the whistle on the coruption in the ranks of the UN mission, putting her career and life in jeopardy.
Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn lend weight to The Whistleblower in limited roles. Both appear in just a few scenes representing the officials who bothered to believe Kathryn and tried to help. Monica Bellucci also has a relatively small role as Laura Leviani, a UN official more interested in procedures and keeping the agency's nose clean than getting to the truth of the sex slave scandal.
First time Canadian director Larysa Kondrack keeps the focus on Kathryn but also gives Raya (an affecting Roxana Condurache), her friends and family ample screen time to put a face on the victims as they hurtle towards a harrowing fate.
Kathryn achieves a small victory at a great cost, and The Whistleblower's resonating message is the inability of any small group of individuals to stand in front of the insatiable momentum driving the sex trade across international borders. It's a grim conclusion that unfortunately undermines the movie's value. Kathryn is well-intentioned, but ultimately whistling into a strong wind.
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