The Whistleblower
Real-World Ugliness

Last week, I reviewed the documentary Miss Representation and wrote, in part,

I sincerely hope that plenty of people—and women in particular, as this game is largely in their hands—get out to see this movie, and get riled up about it… and conclude, to steal a line from Serenity, “I aim to misbehave.”

It’s about time that women, as a whole, check out of this system.  While this may seem an unfair assessment, particularly given that the boards of the media conglomerates are really just glorified boys clubs, I don’t hold out any great hope that men have it within themselves to change any of this.  Boys, after all, will be boys.  Why must women be boys, too?

The Whistleblower is a true story about one woman who misbehaved in a major way and took down a despicable boys-will-be-a-holes network of sex traffickers masquerading as U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia.  I was thrilled to see listed in the closing credits:

  • Larysa Kondracki — Director
  • Eilis Kirwan — Screenwriter
  • Amy Kaufman — Executive Producer
  • Christina Piovesan — Producer
  • Celine Rattray — Producer

Larysa Kondracki, director of The WhistleblowerThe film also, of course, stars Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who signs up for high-paying contract policework in Bosnia. 

This is what I’m talking about!

And the film isn’t some anti-male screed put together by a bunch of activist misanthropists.  Instead, it’s a proactively positive (if infuriatingly heartbreaking) story about the evils of sex-trafficking which enlists the help of other A-list stars like David Strathairn and Benedict Cumberbatch, while getting co-production help from a bunch of German men.

But still, the lead story is: this is story about a strong woman, starring a strong woman, made by strong women.  And it’s a strong film.

First-time director Kondracki—herself a first-generation Canadian of Ukrainian descent—puts together a taut, gritty award-winning police drama that centers more on the human toll of the crimes in question than it does on procedural tactics or forensics.  And that’s a wise choice, as the heart of the story here is the very real human price paid by the girls abducted to feed the trade… and by Bolkovac, who has been effectively blacklisted by her actions.

Released in theaters during the dog days of summer last year, Whistleblower ended up expanding to only 70 screens nationwide and earned a paltry $1.1 million over 12 weeks.  To a degree, that’s understandable.  When the competition is Conan, Contagion, and The Lion King 3D, how many people are going to opt for a dark and ugly look at corruption and moral outrage?

Still, this is a film that deserves to be seen by a lot more eyes—and celebrated. 

Bear in mind also that, while I’m definitely on board with an anti-trafficking agenda, I don’t endorse every film on the topic that happens along.  I also don’t promote every film made by women, either, simply because I want to celebrate female filmmakers.  I pretty much panned 2007’s Trade, for instance, which highlighted America’s sex trafficking woes, and Ada Bligaard Søby’s Complaints Choir.

So please take my recommendation seriously.  It’s available now on DVD and Blu-ray… and the Special Feature is the movie itself.  The home video release also offers a five-minute look at the real Bolkovac and her story, but the package wisely avoids other fluff and distractions.

Check it out.

The Whistleblower is rated R for “disturbing violent content including a brutal sexual assault, graphic nudity and language.”  The film earns the R, but is nonetheless remarkably restrained.  The approach is suitable for the material.

Courtesy of the film’s distributor, Greg screened a promotional Blu-ray of The Whistleblower.