Tales from the Organ Trade
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Tales from the Organ Trade

Shedding light on the underground organ trade.


stars 3andahalf9


Sunday, April 28, 7 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Monday, April 29, 1 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Thursday, May 2, 4 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West)

How do you regulate black-market organ trafficking around the world when the demand in developed countries far exceeds the supply from legal donors? That’s the animating question behind Emmy-award-winner Ric Esther Bienstock’s Tales from the Organ Trade, an intelligent and engaging look at the transnational politics, economics, and ethical quagmires of organ donation.

Narrated by a bemused David Cronenberg—a perfect choice, given his own filmography’s fixation on the horror of squishy organs in alien bodies—the film is foremost a wide-ranging outsider’s look into a complex system. Rather than simply lambasting the self-interested and exploitative work of a top clandestine surgeon nicknamed “Doctor Frankenstein,” Bienstock is more interested in tracing the good and (more commonly) bad effects of a largely uncontrolled industry that thrives on the unmet needs of middle-class recipients on their last legs, as well as the dire situations faced by impoverished donors in the Philippines, for whom a donation is something far more complicated than a gift.

Overlong and too reliant at times on statistical charts to set the scene, this is nevertheless an admirably restrained and informative look at how such an intimate medical procedure is inflected by a wide array of geopolitical forces.

See All Hot Docs 2013 Reviews