Friday, August 5, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower
Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Released August 5, 2011

True stories can make for very good movies. Basing something on fact means that there's a wealth of material from which a script and complex characters can be mined, and also room for certain creative liberties that might make for better storytelling. Turning true stories into thrillers, however, can be more difficult, since there's a tendency to exaggerate and sensationalize in the name of producing suspense. In "The Whistleblower," the story of Kathy Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who signs up to be a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia and discovers a disturbing connection between the UN forces and human trafficking, nothing is played bigger than it should be, presenting a straightforward, immensely unsettling picture of these real-life events.

"The Whistleblower" is a production with heavy female involvement at all levels. Star Rachel Weisz compares it to "Silkwood" and "Erin Brockovich," showcasing a determined women aiming to correct a perversion of justice and expose the truth. This is the first feature film from director Larysa Kondracki, who collaborated with Eilis Kirwan on the script. Kondracki describes the film as flipping traditional gender roles, as Kathy's love interest, Jan, is more like the girlfriend. Ultimately, it's Kathy against a sea of predatory men, with precious few exceptions.

"The Whistleblower" is a very tough film to watch due to its depiction of human trafficking. Kondracki leaves little to the imagination without being gratuitous, showing just how horrific the mental and physical abuse undergone by the trafficked girls can be. Kondracki notes that those who have been freed from such circumstances prefer to be known as survivors of human trafficking rather than victims, and that distinction is clear in the film, more so to underline the dependency that these girls can feel towards their captors. It's heartbreaking to watch, especially as seen on Cathy's face.

Rachel Weisz, who won an Oscar for "The Constant Gardener" in 2005, has found a similar role in "The Whistleblower," though here she's front and center, unaware of just what it is that she's walking into when she signs up to go to Bosnia. Weisz plays the part with a kind of naive optimism, assuming that she'll see the best in people and utterly unprepared for the fact that matters are infinitely worse than she could ever have expected. Watching Kathy transform into a more hardened person is extremely compelling. Weisz is ably supported by a cast that includes Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn, and Liam Cunningham, as well as a host of local European actors that add a degree of authenticity to the film. "The Whistleblower" is not a pleasant viewing experience, but it is a strong, effective, powerful, and important film.


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