In our modern era of total interconnectivity, speaking out against perceived injustices can have extensive personal and professional consequences. Based on true events, this harrowing political thriller – a Special Presentation at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival – recounts the story of Nebraska police officer Kathryn Bolkavac, who discovers a deplorable United Nations cover-up and launches an indomitable fight for justice.
After enduring extensive personal setbacks, Kathryn (Rachel Weisz) accepts a well-paying UN peacekeeping job, courtesy of a private military contractor. She arrives in post-war Bosnia expecting a harmonized inter¬national effort, but is greeted with disorder and irresponsibility. UN officers behave like immature college students, Bosnian police are uncooperative and there is rampant sexism, both among the local population and in the hallways of the UN. When a brutally injured young woman lands in the UN’s care, Kathryn unearths a terrible underworld of sex trafficking and traces the path of criminality to a shocking source.
Director Larysa Kondracki’s bold debut takes an unforgiving look at a horrifying contemporary issue. At the centre of her formidable cast, which includes Vanessa Redgrave (Miral, Atonement) and Monica Bellucci (The Passion of the Christ) is Rachel Weisz (The Brothers Bloom, The Constant Gardener), who captures the gradations of Bolkavac’s character with aplomb, shifting from naivety to indignation to desperation. Weisz imbues Bolkavac with all the heady baggage of the character’s past, the details of which are used against her by the enemies she makes along the way.
As Kathryn works feverishly to gather evidence, the UN works harder to stymie her progress and keep her silent. Kondracki holds nothing back, exposing the insidious sexism, double standards and criminal negligence of those ostensibly entrusted to protect the vulnerable. The nightmare of the sex trade industry and the gruesome fates of its victims are depicted without reprieve. Kondracki has achieved a rare feat: a political thriller (famously the domain of male directors) about horrific injustices against women and told through a woman’s uncompromising lens.