Ric Esther Bienstock’s
Tales From The Organ Trade
An Unforgettable Black-Market Expose
Narrated by David Cronenberg
Canadian Broadcast Premiere on HISTORY®
Monday, July 7 at 9pm ET/PT
“serious, superb and essential” – Maclean’s
“a ride that you won’t soon forget“ – The Globe and Mail
“NNNN” “a stroke of genius” – NOW
“a rare gem of a film” – Twitch
Since its premiere last spring, the response to Tales from the Organ Trade has been unprecedented. Ric Esther Bienstock’s nuanced look at the black market organ trade has won over audiences and critics, winning the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Amnesty International Award from the San Sebastian Human Rights Film Festival in Spain, and a Scripps Howard Award for journalism. It is also being used as an instrument of change for policy makers –in December, Bienstock was invited by the Danish parliament to screen the documentary and present her findings as part of a historical report to shape new legislation in Denmark.
Every 60 minutes, somewhere in the world, a human organ is sold on the black market.
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 the prosecution of an international organ trafficking ring operating out of a small clinic in Kosovo. Using the indictment as a roadmap, Bienstock painstakingly tracked down each of the people involved in one single black market transplant operation – the recipient, the surgeon, the nephrologist and the organ seller – and then convinced them to talk. The challenges were enormous as all the characters were scattered around the globe, involved in illicit activity, and key players in an on-going court case. The recipient is a Canadian man who couldn’t wait for a legal transplant at home. The transplant surgeon is a defiant Turkish doctor dubbed “Dr. Frankenstein” by the international media, currently a fugitive from justice wanted by Interpol. The nephrologist is a distinguished Israeli physician who sees no evil in paying for human organs and the donor is a woman from Moldova who willingly sold her kidney, saved another human being’s life and is now at the centre of the world’s most notorious organ trafficking cases.
“By tackling the organ trade through personal stories, I hoped to cut through the sensationalism and hysteria that typically surround this subject and lay all the facts on the table,” says director Bienstock. “The picture that emerged was not a black and white story of exploitation, but rather, a nuanced and complex tale of survival for both the buyers and sellers that forced me to question my own moral assumptions. This is a world where the villains often save lives, while all too often, a helpless medical establishment watches people die.”
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 2 Edward R. Murrow Awards, a Dupont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, multiple Geminis, a Royal Television Society Award in the UK 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 HISTORY and Discovery channel and Simcha Jacobovici, the best-selling author, “investigative archeologist” and host of The Naked Archeologist.
Tales From The Organ Trade is an Associated Producers Production, in association with HBO Documentary Films, Shaw Media and Canal D. 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.