Wednesday December 7, 2011

Michael Lehan is a producer at TVO

Premiering on TVO tonight, The Market, by filmmaker Rama Rau, explores the black market of human organ trafficking in developing countries.

Rama Rau’s doc simultaneously follows the tortured decision making process of two families: one in British Columbia with a mother in need of a new kidney to end years of dialysis: And one in the impoverished south of India with a mother desperately trying to pay off debts incurred to feeding family and sending her children to school.

The result is the perfect platform to investigate the murky ethical struggle between the two very self-aware parties, concluded by Rau’s compelling contrivance to bring the two families face-to-face at the doc’s climax. I wont say another word for fear of spoiling the conclusion.

I admit, the first connection I made to the black market organ trade was to cannibalism.

In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the  practice of mummia, blending ground-up mummified remains into tinctures, was touted as a catch-all treatment for a long list of ailments: eating ground up bone cured arthritis; marrow cured palsy; parts of the skull and brain treated epilepsy and mental disorders.

The best results, of course, came from the most expensive of sources: that is Ancient Egyptian mummies pilfered from the rich tombs along the Nile. It’s no surprise that mummia fell out of practice when it was revealed that most sources for mummies were in fact obtained from the recently embalmed corpses of executed criminals.

In The Market, we observe again that contemporary global civilization hasn’t abandoned the practice of cannibalising the disadvantaged for the health benefits of the wealthy. But now, as then, the same basic problem of supply and demand remains. The need for organ donors far outstrips the supply of healthy organs available through altruistic organ donation.

In an interview with DocStudio, Rama asks a tough question, "Are we slipping and sliding into this moral and ethical morass of looking at a poor person, at looking at slums as reservoirs of organs for the wealthy?"

(Filmmaker comments on The Market)

According to The Market, the average payout for donating a kidney in India is around $2500 USD. Just how insatiable is the demand to consume the flesh of others to prolong life? That same kidney will fetch between $40 to $80 thousand. Installed.

You can watch The Market on TVO:

  • Wednesday December 7th at 9 PM and Midnight
  • Sunday December 11th at 11 PM

And on the DocStudio iPad app