Supply-and-Demand Grabs the Scalpel
in Ric Esther Bienstock’s
Tales From The Organ Trade
An Unforgettable Black-Market Expose
Narrated by David Cronenberg
North American Premiere at Hot Docs
Sunday April 28 – 7:00 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre – 93 Charles St.
**Tales From The Organ Trade won Best Sign of the Times Doc Award from New Zealand’s DocEdge Festival where the film had its world premiere**
Ric Esther Bienstock is available for interviews
In a Philippine village, nearly every male has sold a kidney for the price of a laptop. In Kosovo, the Mob is accused of coercing organ donors for dubious pay. And in Philadelphia, an unemployed hustler responds to an ad in Craigslist promising him $20,000 for his kidney.
It’s all part of a worldwide black market in transplant organs, an ethically murky dance of life-and-death between the First and Third Worlds that is conservatively estimated to be worth a half-billion dollars a year.
The documentary is a gritty and unflinching descent into the shadowy world of black-market organ trafficking: the street-level brokers, the rogue surgeons, the impoverished men and women who are willing to sacrifice a slice of their own bodies for a quick payday, and the desperate patients who face the agonizing choice of obeying the law or saving their lives.
Tales From The Organ Trade, by acclaimed documentarian Ric Esther Bienstock (Sex Slaves: aka The Real Sex Traffic, Ebola: Inside an Outbreak), and narrated by David Cronenberg, travels the world, shining a light on what seems a rampant human indignity. At the heart of the film is a notorious European Union prosecution involving a Turkish surgeon nicknamed “Dr. Frankenstein” by the media, a procurer and nephrologist from Israel, a Canadian patient who can’t wait for a transplant in his own country, and a vivacious, beer-drinking East European woman who willingly donated a kidney.
The backdrop of the impending trial serves to underscore the complicated nature of the organ trade – wherein the “good guys” play by the book and helplessly watch patients die, while the “bad guys” meet a demand and putatively save lives in the course of dirty dealing.
“When I set out to make Tales From the Organ Trade I thought I was embarking on a very black and white story of desperation and exploitation,” says director Bienstock. “But this is a morally complex world where the villains often save lives and the medical establishment, helpless, too often watches people die. Where the victims often walk away content and the buyers of organs, the recipients, return home with a new lease on life.”
“Demand for kidneys is growing. And as more desperate patients realize that they will not make it to the top of the list for this life-saving organ, more operations will take place in the unregulated world of the black market.”
Known for her investigative documentaries, including the Emmy-winning Sex Slaves, as well as lighter fare like Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour, Bienstock has received numerous awards, including an Edward R. Murrow Award, a Dupont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism and a BAFTA nomination. She has been invited by foreign embassies and Law Enforcement organizations around the world to speak on trafficking as she has offers rare first-hand experience in dealing with traffickers and criminals as well as their victims.
Tales From the Organ Trade was written, directed and produced by Bienstock. Also produced by Felix Golubev, Bienstock’s producing partner on Sex Slaves and Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour, as well as many acclaimed documentaries for the History and Discovery channels and Simcha Jacobovici, the best-selling author, “investigative archeologist” and host of “The Naked Archeologist”.
An Associated Producers Production, in association with HBO Documentary Films -Executive Producer Sheila Nevins, Supervising Producer Nancy Abraham. For Shaw Media – Executive-in-Charge-of-Production Lynne Carter | Senior Director Original Factual Content Sarah Jane Flynn. And for Canal D – Director of Original Production Sylvie De Bellefuille. Tales From The Organ Trade was produced with the participation of the Canadian Media Fund, the Rogers Documentary Fund & the Rogers Cable Network Fund and with the assistance of the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit.