Film exposes human trafficking

According to the United Nations, 2.5 million people are trafficked around the world from 127 countries.

"The Whistleblower," which screened May 2 and 4 for the Newport Beach Film Festival, examines modern-day slavery in postwar Bosnia from the perspective of an American U.N. peacekeeper.

The film is based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac while working under private military contractor Dyncorp (called Democra in the film).

Bolkovac, a police officer lured by pay and the idea of taking time off with her daughter, comes to Bosnia to help transition the country. Played by Rachel Weisz, Bolkovac quickly discovers that local police are accepting bribes from brothel owners.

After a quick visit to what they call "bars," she notices the women weren't prostitutes. They were young women, many minors, being treated as slaves.

Many scenes in the film are difficult to watch.

After a fellow officer is beaten up severely after saving a girl, Weisz's character realizes that the local police aren't the only ones in on it.

The film artfully juxtaposes her investigation with the sexism and male dominance used within her own organization to force women into submission.

Without spoiling the film, Weisz's character puts up a good fight.

"It was very moving, very stimulating," said Newport Beach resident Missy Lawless. "The sad part is that it is pretty much a true story."

The fact that human trafficking is a growing epidemic — it's the second fastest growing criminal industry behind the drug trade — really moved the audience.

"It was a pretty powerful film. It's disturbing, "said Kristine Calitri, who drove up from San Clemente to see the film. "I don't know if it's solvable. That's the only problem. Small corruption is easily solved. Something of this magnitude … there are a lot of complexities."

However, Calitri believes making films such as this one will only enhance the chances of achieving justice.

"That's the only way you're going to solve things like this, is to make it an issue," she said. "If nobody wants to look at a problem, if everyone is closing their eyes, it doesn't hit the level of consciousness. You need a public awareness."

"The Whistleblower" will be in theaters in August.

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