Promise of a better life.
Meet Raya (Roxana Condurache) and Luba (Paula Schramm). These two young women are offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to work in a fancy hotel just across the border in Bosnia. Raya was reluctant at first. When she returned home past curfew after an evening of partying to her disappointed mother, her mother told her that she knows the rules–but is an adult now, and can make her own decisions. With that she hurried out the door to chase after her dreams–an opportunity to escape poverty–a promise of a better life.
These two young women quickly find themselves in a situation beyond their control, they are photographed, tagged, and smuggled across the border and sexually exploited, to work off their debt obligations to their traffickers–all with the assistance of the UN peacekeeping authorities:
“When Kathryn Bolkovac went to work for the UN peacekeeping mission in post-war Bosnia in the late 1990s, she was horrified to discover a thriving sex-trafficking trade. But what was even more shocking was that some of her colleagues were involved. When she tried to expose the abuse, she was fired by her employer, the private military contractor Dyncorp. She eventually won a case against them.” – BBC.
The film then enters into the back story of Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Wiesz), a divorced police officer from Nebraska, who was offered an opportunity to work in post-war Bosnia and provide police protection and investigation parallel to the UN. She is successful in processing one case of domestic violence against the husband of a Muslim woman–found brutally beaten and stabbed–and the officers working with her didn’t involve themselves in the case because of the religious tensions in the region. One of the men even scoffed “she probably deserved it.”
Post-war victimization and immunity
Bolkovac soon found that many of the contracted peacekeepers were involved in the trafficking of the young women. The film does not “make nice” in depicting the deplorable state many of the trafficked lived in. After one raid at a local bar, a few of the women were sent to a hidden shelter–where an older woman and a nurse volunteers tended to them. The scary nightlife, the dark and dangerous streets where the traffickers are peering around every corner, hunting down where these girls are taken–and she has to be careful, because her own life is at stake.
It did not take long for her to find out that the sex trafficking operation involved the very men she worked with. The depictions of the inner operations of the brothels and torture the girls experiences are in graphic detail, without the need for constantly “reminding” viewers who are responsible. The film progress in its own careful detail–ensuring that there are no misconceptions that knowledge of the criminal exploitation activity went all the way to the top–and the understanding that all these men who were involved, were immune from prosecution (Barnett & Hughes, 2001).
Imagine that these inhumanities are still happening all around the world. The only un-necessary detail in the film, was the romance between Blokovac and Jan Van Der Velde (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). Although the romance actually occurred during Blokovac’s investigations, it was a distraction compared to the main story. Weisz is phenomenal as Kathryn Blokovac and in fact, it is her best performance ever in my opinion. She demonstrated vigorous determination and focus necessary of films that contain this type of intense subject matter. The other characters featured in the film add to the intensity to the story but they oftentimes, did not display the same tenacity. It is evident, their roles defined the harshness and cruelties that must have existed during Blokovac’s investigation–frightening.
Vanessa Redgrave as Madeleine Rees, and David Strathairn as Peter Ward, were strategic acting forces in the film and served as steady pillars in Blokovac’s investigation to bring the evidence to press. It is amazing just how difficult it was to expose the truth of these crimes. Thanks to assisted efforts–these crimes made it to the press.
The Whistleblower is an uncomfortable film to watch; partly because the events actually occurred. The statistical realism’s it depicts–are even more startling; over 100,000 children are estimated to be in the sex trade:
“Because human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries, the U.S. government and academic researchers are currently working on an up-to-date estimate of the total number of trafficked persons in the United States annually. With 100,000 children estimated to be in the sex trade in the United States each year, it is clear that the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated.” – Polaris
Overall, The Whistleblower, no matter how fictional–is a disturbingly good film based on true events. It is hard to watch but it succeeds in holding your attention–in disbelief that these events actually happen. What’s more disturbing is that films like this one–that depict the exploitation and inhumanities against people–men, women, and children are screened and ushered out quietly–with little or no press of their existance. Akin to the social awareness of these international human tragedies–are soon forgotten about.
‘Nothing is more dangerous than the truth.’
“Over the past year, several cases of human rights abuses, specifically sexual exploitation and abuse, by individuals involved in U.N. peacekeeping operations have raised the suspicions of many Members of Congress and members of the International Relations Committee.” – Congressman Michael McCaul
The Whistleblower is a biographical drama based on the true experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, who risked her life and outed the U. N. for covering up a human sex-trafficking ring. Directed by Larysa Kondracki, written by Larysa Kondracki, and Eilis Kirwan. The film stars Academy Award Winner® Rachel Weisz (The Brothers Bloom, The Mummy; The Mummy Returns), Monica Bellucci (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement), and David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck). Kathryn Bolkovac, former police investigator from Nebraska, worked as a U.N. International Police Force monitor, has written a book about her experiences in Bosnia and Herzegovina titled “The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice.”
Source: Fox Home Entertainment , Statistics: Polaris Project
Barnett, A., & Hughes, S. (2001, July 28). British firm accused in un sex scandal: international police in bosnia face prostitution claims. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/jul/29/unitednations