Tales from the Organ Trade, 2013.
Directed by Ric Esther Bienstock.
Starring David Cronenberg (narrator), Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, Jonathan Ratal, and Raul Fain.
The issue of illegal human organ transplants has a global impact upon the impoverished, the
legal and medical professions, and those in desperate need of a life-saving operation.
From the slums of the Philippines to a Toronto urban dwelling, the trafficking of human organs is a worldwide issue. The poor see the selling of their extra kidney as way to obtain financial freedom for their families while those in dire need of the organ spend years of frustration waiting on donor lists. A great effort has been made by documentarian Ric Esther Bienstock (Sex Slaves) to explore all the players involved including the doctors who are willing to perform operations in devastated countries such as Kosovo. Saving a life does not come cheaply as over $100,000 can be paid by those needing a transplant while the seller can get as little as $1000 for their human sacrifice.
The subject matter is filled with so many grey areas there are no clear villains or heroes. In one way the poor are given a means to rescue themselves from their poverty but in most cases the monetary windfall is squandered. However, one cannot ignore that a life ends up being saved. Seeing the effects of a mother, her son and daughter going through dialysis is heart-breaking as the blood cleansing process extracts a hefty toll upon their bodies. As for Turkish surgeon Dr. Yusuf Sonmez who has been labelled “Dr. Vulture” and “Dr. Frankenstein” he does not come across as a profiteer of human misery as believed to be by prosecutor Jonathan Ratel. A question is raised: If it is legal to give an organ for free or “altruistic” reasons why is it considered criminal to sell one?
A great amount of credit has to go to Ric Esther Bienstock for the effort to provide multiple perspectives; she is aided by slick graphics which assist in getting the facts across. If there is a weakness in the presentation it is the lack of examination into the seedy areas where butchers rather than highly skilled surgeons perform the operations. The biggest compliment which can be paid to Tales from the Organ Trade is that the documentary sparks a lot of discussion and debate about an issue which is not going to die off anytime soon.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
For those attending the 2013 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto, Tales from the Organ Trade will be screened April 28th @ 7 pm at Isabel Bader Theatre, April 29th @ 1 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, and May 2nd @ 4pm at Scotiabank 4.