Is there any sin in the pantheon of human cruelty more loathsome, more evil than torturing and killing people for fun and profit? At least the monsters who torture and kill for ideology's sake think they're doing the right thing. Slavers and sex traffickers are the lowest of the low. Which brings us to Bosnia, a major US military contractor called DynCorp, and a new film called The Whistleblower, about one real-life woman's attempt to expose an extensive sex-slave trade involving UN peacekeepers.
It begins in Nebraska with a cop named Kathryn Bolkovac who signs up to be a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia. She quickly rises through the ranks of Democra (as DynCorp is called in the film) and discovers that some of her coworkers are not only patrons of, but participants in, an extensive international child-rape business. Things get worse and more sinister from there. Local police and international peacekeepers thwart her investigation, tip off gangsters about where she's taken rescued girls, and even physically block her from busting a so-called brothel. ("Brothel" is technically correct, but too nice a word: These places were dank rape cafes where young women were locked in cages and trotted out so customers, including employees of Democra and senior UN officials, could brutalize them for a fee.)
As Bolkovac gets close to blowing the whole scandal open, Democra abruptly fires her. She flees the country, fearing for her life. To date, Bolkovac's investigations—and the efforts of other whistleblowers in Bosnia, including Ben Johnston—have led to the resignation or firing of several individuals, but no prosecutions. At one point in the film, Bolkovac learns, to her horror, that all these monsters she's investigating have legal immunity, per the Dayton Peace Accords.
The Whistleblower's source material is so searingly awful and enraging that it overwhelms the film, which too often comes off as a clumsy potboiler thriller. "If you watch the film and think, 'That didn't happen,' it did. All the tough stuff," said Larysa Kondracki, the director and cowriter, in an interview with the Boston Herald. "Not only did it happen, but more than what we see here. We're kind of the opposite of the usual Hollywood thing where you have to blow things up. We had to tone it back."
That was wise for the feature film. If its content were any more hideous, The Whistleblower would verge on exploitation. But this story doesn't need a Hollywood movie—it needs a serious, eviscerating, ass-kicking documentary. If Bolkovac's story is as she tells it, there are some powerful people hiding out in the US State Department, the United Nations, and DynCorp who should be dragged by their hair into the light of day and beaten to death with tire irons.
Figuratively speaking, of course.