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Movie review: THE WHISTLEBLOWER

The title of this new drama isn’t entirely inappropriate: as the story goes on, the heroine of the story does indeed attempt to make public the misdeeds of her employer, in this case a military contractor working for the United Nations in Bosnia. But the impact of that pales next to the bulk of this fact-based film about human trafficking, a bland term for the lucrative practice of forcing women into sexual slavery.

Rachel Weisz stars as Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska policewoman who in 1999 accepted a job with Democra Services, a private contractor providing peacekeeping services in Bosnia. (We can presumably credit lawyers, or the fear of them, for the mix of fact and fiction here; Bolkovac is a real person, but the company that employed her was DynCorp International, which has objected to her version of the story.) She discovers that a local bar is holding as prisoners girls used as prostitutes. When she finds that the raid she observed only led to the girls being returned to their keepers, she is compelled to investigate further. She learns that not only are workers for the diplomatic and peacekeeping forces patrons of these brothels, but that some of them are helping to protect the men running them. And the further up the line she gets, he more she finds that everyone would just prefer to turn a blind eye to the whole ugly mess.

You’re not likely to come out of The Whistleblower feeling good about the world, unless you can take solace from the knowledge that at least some people are trying to expose evil in the world. That’s scant comfort after this demonstration of how responsibility for an unthinkable and unbearable situation gets diffused the further those with the power to do something about it are removed from it. (A typical reaction: “This is Bosnia—these people specialize in fucked up.”) Weisz is excellent despite being saddled with an uncomfortable American accent. First time director Larysa Kondracki tries to keep the film from being too horrible to watch (she claims she toned things down from some of what the real Kathryn Bolkovac reported in her book), and if the film occasionally falls into melodramatics, it’s hard to see how a story like this could have been told otherwise.

—M. Faust

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