Researching the corruption of the UN, and of its diplomats and officials, has been a pastime of mine for quite a while. I prepared myself for a film that would probably only vaguely touch on reality, and for the story to take on a more personal account between characters, therefore running from the factual occurrences the script was based on. However, I was in for a surprise.
The film, based on the true story of Kathy Bolkovac’s experience in 1999 in Bosnia, stars Rachel Weiz as Kathy – a police officer who takes a job as a UN International Police Force Monitor (Peacekeeper). On arrival in Herzegovina in Bosnia, she finds that her mission is not all it seems and though the war is over, there are still bombs going off and fighting going on. She is surprised to find that she is a rarity, having come from a law enforcement background, as UN Peacekeepers just have to have graduated high school and be over the age of 21 to qualify for the position.
Through western world cop-eyes, Kathy questions the dehumanisation of the local girls and other victims of war by not only the dysfunctional system, but also her team. She encounters problems with getting Muslim women help, uncovering a racial and religious divide. She finds that in order to get some of the young girls medical help there are mountains of red tape – in the way of repatriation papers and technicalities via the ‘Global Displacement Agency’. Kathy is told that billions of dollars rest on the contracts with the UN from private contractors in the USA, and that is why her investigations into corruption are being stopped.
The injustice in the film leaves the viewer uneasy. Watching scenes where Internal Affairs investigations are overridden by unknown higher-ups is scary, along with the repeated theme driven home through various lines in the script – UN Peacekeepers and international diplomats have immunity and cannot be prosecuted.
The acting in the scenes where girls are punished for speaking to police are amazing in their horrifying realness, and the overall dinginess of the film’s lighting provides a mood that was no doubt present in real life. The mention of Democra-corp as a corrupt security contractor was a pseudonym for the real world’s DynCorp – a talking point because, aside from changing the name, the creators of the film have not tried to sugar coat anything. All departments depicted in the film are real, and at the end when the whereabouts and futures of the characters came up there were no apologies, happy endings, or peace of mind. The words did not describe how the corruption was eliminated – important, because there are places in the world where the UN and DynCorp are still working together, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The film accurately describes a time period and experience, but lets the viewer know that the situation in Herzegovina and other areas in Bosnia are not isolated, that this corruption and dysfunctional system is likely to still be existing in other countries. When I entered the cinema I did not expect The Whistleblower to have an unashamed, take-no-prisoners attitude in calling out the UN’s compliance in corruption. This is a powerful film that will no doubt open the eyes of people who otherwise are not informed about what happens in war-torn places after and during the initial battles.
The Whistleblower is screening at Luna Leederville and Luna on SX from Thursday 29th September.
By Celeste Eden