The Whistleblower

Author: Eilis Kirwan & Larysa Kondracki
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Storyline: 4
Dialogue: 5
Characterization: 4
Writer’s Potential: 5

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

In 1999, an American diplomat in Bosnia discovers a sex-slave operation and unravels a conspiracy perpetrated by international corporations, the U.N., and the U.S. State Department.

Synopsis:

Two 15-year-old girls, LUBA and RAYA, get drunk with a large group of teen friends. Convinced it’s the only way to escape their little Ukrainian town, Luba tries to convince Raya to go with her to a job working for a Swiss hotel. Raya doesn’t feel comfortable abandoning her mother, HALYNA (35), but she has a change of heart after getting yelled at by Halyna and truly absorbing the poverty in which they live. A creepy man named ROMAN (40) photographs Luba, Raya, and other girls. As Raya smiles hopefully, the camera flash cuts to a suburban Lincoln, Nebraska, home. Police office KATHY BOLKOVAC (38, fit) and her partner attempt to calm a domestic dispute, but the belligerent husband ends up hospitalizing Kathy. Her captain, HAWK, visits her and reluctantly says he had to give a promotion to her partner, becausee of the injury. Kathy decides she needs to take a job offer she received. Kathy’s daughter, ERIN (15), knows this job means Kathy will leave. She doesn’t want her mother to go.

Kathy rides a bus through war-torn Sarajevo along with a group of Blue Berets. She spots CARMEN, the only other woman on the bust, and they form an instant bond solely based on their gender. At a meeting hall, BILL HYNES (50s, distinguished) informs them that a company called Dyncorp has hired them to represent the U.S. as monitors for the U.N. Kathy drives past an Italian military base, then an Italian bar, then a German military base and a German bar, and so on. This amuses Kathy. A montage follows, of Kathy settling into her new life: finding grocery store shelves stocked with unfamiliar items, danger around every corner, mass graves, violence. Carmen invites Kathy for a drink at a bar called “The International.” There, it seems every man is pawing an attractive and extremely young bartender — except JAN VAN DER VELDE, a Dutchman with the same task force Kathy belongs to. The next morning, Kathy and Carmen discover Jan is their duty officer. They’ve been assigned to instruct Bosnian police officers. Kathy is sent to a classroom, where the all-male policemen treat her disrespectfully and pay little attention. Kathy drags the men to the hospital, where they witness the aftermath of a variety of violent crimes.

In particular, Kathy is shocked to discover a Muslim woman, brutally beaten and stabbed in the face by her husband, has no legal resource — domestic violence is not a crime. A sympathetic young cop, VIKO, offers to take the case, because his mother suffered similar beatings. Working with Viko, Kathy discovers that certain violent crimes, such as barfights, are recognized under the law. She and Viko examine books of old court cases, looking for precedents for each injury the woman sustained. As a result, they win the first domestic abuse case in Bosnian history. This catches the attention of MADELEINE REES (50s), a superior in the U.N. chain of command. She offers Kathy the chance to oversee the Gender Affairs Office. Moved to a different ofice, Kathy says a tearful goodbye to Carmen and moves on. She meets RICK JONES (30s), a superior who runs Madeleine’s office with her. He shows her around and wishes her luck. Kathy’s left alone in a quiet office, with no help. Kathy runs into Jan in town, and he takes her on an unofficial date at a café. He begins to prove to Kathy that he’s not like the obnoxious, sex-crazed officers he calls friends. He finds the number of Bosnian widows disturbing.

While looking into the problems facing women in the region, Kathy and some field workers dsicover Raya and IRKA (17), clothes torn, faces and bodies bruised. Speaking in broken English, Irka says she came from the “Florida Bar.” Kathy is sent to a raid on the bar with only local police — no U.N. backup, and no translator. She’s at a total loss. Kathy stumbles upon some U.N. SUVs and realizes peacekeepers are there. FRED MURRAY explains that the locals had been investigating the bar, and the girls made a run for it when they burst in. Inside, Kathy finds photos of nude girls surrounded by men, passports from all over Eastern Europe. In a hidden back room, she finds mattresses and papers showing dollar amounts for various sexual acts. Kathy finds out Raya and Irka were taken to a women’s shelter. There, MILENA (40s) explains the lay of the land: girls are bought, then told they must repay the debt, but they’re never let go. She explains, among other problems with the girls, Raya has an internal infection from men inserting coins into her genitals. Kathy is horrified. Milena continues by saying that the U.S. State Department has stringent rules regarding condoms — namely, that they encourage prostitution, and anyone who provides them will not receive aid or funding. Kathy points out that these girls are not prostitutes so much as slaves. Milena says that because of the lack of condoms, the men will pay a premium for virgins, and as a consequence, the number of enslaved underage girls has skyrocketed. Kathy asks about the other girls who fled the Florida Bar, who were supposed to be taken to the shelter. Milena says there are no others. Kathy finds a distracted Fred Murray, who tells him the locals thought they had a prostitution bust, but it turned out the girls were legitimate waitresses. Kathy is appalled.

Kathy goes to the Global Displacement Agency and meets with LAURA LEVIN about getting funding to help with the repatriation of Raya and Irka, who are key witnesses in an investigation she’s decided to spearhead. Driving past the Florida Bar at night, Kathy sees Jan stumble out with some drunken friends. He spots her angrily peering through her windshield and follows her home. Jan tells her he was just picking up a friend who had too much to drink. Kathy gets sanctimonious, so Jan takes the opportunity to point out that these sex-slave brothels are everywhere. Kathy wants to find out everything Jan knows. He shows her an Internet messageboard for U.N. police. She’s disgusted by their casual sleaze. She makes a report and gives it to Rick Jones, alleging that Fred Murray and others were paid to turn a blind eye. Rick laughs it off, citing a total lack of evidence. He refuses to let her investigate.

Laura Levin tries to convince Raya and Irka to sign repatriation papers that would allow them to leave Bosnia. Raya asks what will happen to the others. Laura apologizes, saying all she can do is get them home. Kathy comes to check on them and discovers Laura is cutting Raya loose because she won’t cooperate with the “repatriation program.” Kathy offers U.N. protection for Raya in exchange for information. Raya explains that she left because there was nothing for her at home. She was brought together with other girls and then sold. Any girls who didn’t cooperate were killed. Kathy goes back to Milena to gather testimony from other victims. Milena gives her access to 35 girls. Kathy builds a solid case showing the U.N. and local police were complicit in the trafficking — both turning a blind eye and paying the girls for sex. Kathy brings what she has to Rick Jones, but he’s still cautious. He takes her report and says he’ll get back to her.

Jan explains to Kathy the lawless nature of Bosnia. His people are subject to a military tribunal, although he’s never seen one, but the Americans are sent by a corporation. They have no accountability because of diplomatic immunity. Kathy comes to Madeleine with an idea — because the officers have immunity, what about having the girls testify against the traffickers? The trial would force them to come out with all the information about the brothel operations, and if it’s on the record, the State Department will be forced to pay attention. Kathy goes to Viko and Laura for help prosecuting. Viko takes Raya into his protection, but Laura says they cut Irka loose because she had no passport. Kathy asks why they didn’t just get her one, and Laura explains that she has no home country. Her parents were killed, and she has no documentation. Kathy speeds out to the middle of nowhere, near the border, and finds where they abandoned Irka. Meanwhile, cars attack the van transporting Viko and Raya. Once they stop the van, the men take Raya and leave Viko incapacitated.

Later, Kathy and Viko feel defeated. Kathy suggests raiding the Florida Bar again. Although Viko doesn’t think they’ll be that stupid, they have no options. True to Kathy’s instincts, the Florida Bar is swinging, but no signs of the girls or traffickers remain. TANJO, the head of the traffickers, takes the girls out to the woods. He has four men beat and rape Raya in front of his other girls, as a warning to keep the others from thinking of testifying. Kathy goes to Madeleine for help, because Irka’s too scared to testify and the GDA is useless. Madeleine takes Kathy to a black-tie diplomatic event, where she seeks help from the wife of the U.S. Ambassador. She grants the repatriate Irka as a U.S. citizen, relieving both Madeleine and Kathy. Kathy, a consummate cop, is surprised and intrigued by the difference in behavior between diplomacy and police investigations. Madeleine goes to the press about the trafficking. Kathy asks Carmen for help tracking down Fred Murray. Carmen tells Kathy that Fred disappeared and urges Kathy to be careful. Kathy is called in by human resources and forced to take an extended vacation for her “mental health.” They fear her “recklessness.” Feeling like a failure for losing witnesses and being forced away from her investigation, Kathy gripes to Jan. She discovers that every single report she filed has been rejected for insufficient evidence due to unreliable witnesses. Kathy goes to Rick, who backs up the rejections and shows that the officers accused had alibis. Kathy tries to get Internal Affairs involved. She receives a secret phone call that night telling her to meet someone at a hotel.

Kathy arrives and finds PETER WARD, an IA officer who tells Kathy she’s being investigated. He hands her the file they’re keeping on her and suggests that she use the utmost caution. Dyncorp makes far too much money off their “humanitarian” efforts to let a “sex scandal” jeopardize it. Kathy does an Internet search on Rick Jones, finding that before Dyncorp hired him, he was fired from his Chief of Police job for sexual harassment. Madeleine calls Kathy with some good news: after getting Irka repatriated, Milena’s shelter received private donations from concerned Americans. With private funding, they can run the shelter properly. Kathy receives a surprising call from the shelter — two slaves, JULIA and TANYA, have fled and are seeking help. Kathy and Viko pick them up, and they say there’s a bar called Oasis in the mountains where other girls are being held. Before considering a raid, they interview the girls and find out they crossed the border into Bosnia in U.N. vans. Kathy says that’s enough to do a raid that will stick. They get evidence from a border cop that the girls were telling the truth.

Kathy goes to Bill Hynes with the information, but Hynes tells them resources are too tight to stage a raid on shaky evidence. Kathy shows him the border log, but Hynes tells her that she needs to think of her own future and keep quiet. Kathy is shocked. Kathy and Viko stage a small-scale raid using mostly local cops and a few of her own officers. They search the bar, arresting men and looking for the girls. Kathy is shocked to see Raya again, and vice-versa. Raya is immediately terrified again when one of her U.N. men, MIKE SEARS, pulls off his helmet. Raya recognizes him and is terrified. Understanding, Kathy attacks Mike. Viko pulls Kathy off of him, but Kathy’s passion cannot compel these girls to go with a group involving Mike Sears. Viko points out that these girls can’t be forced to go with him.

Enraged beyond reason, Kathy writes an e-mail and carbon-copies everyone at the Bosnian U.N., giving a detailed explanation of everything she’s uncovered. The next morning, her inbox is full with responses. Bill Hynes and Rick Jones, among others, call Kathy into their office. She’s told higher-ups want her fired. Later that night, one of Jan’s friends (FRANZ), intercepts Kathy outside her apartment. He takes a bug out of her cell phone and types on her computer that she’s being monitored. He dusts her car for fingerprints, which may suggest a bomb. After going to bat for Kathy, Madeleine tells her that Hynes let slip that the State Department instructed Dyncorp to fire Kathy, which is illegal. IVAN, the owner of the Oasis bar, blames Raya for the raid that has now destroyed his business. He shoots her dead in front of the other girls.

Kathy goes to her office and finds a note saying her office has been shut down. Peter Ward approaches, and Kathy starts a tape recorder. Peter hands Kathy her official cause for termination — “time sheet violations.” As Dyncorp is a British corporation, Kathy says they can’t remove her without due process, and with Madeline’s help — Peter informs her that Madeleine was fired, as well. Kathy gets Peter to say, on tape, that the State Department instructed Dyncorp to fire her. She begs Peter to let her into the office, so she can retrieve her personal belongings. Peter does, and Kathy steals all the files pertinent to her investigation. She tries to play back the tape but hears nothing but fuzz. Peter hears it, too, and says there’s a scrambling device in the office. He helpfully points out that the scrambling devices don’t work in most rooms.

Rick Jones sees Kathy milling about outside of her office and begins yelling. Kathy has the tape recorder rolling and catches him announcing the State Department’s role in her termination. Kathy takes her files and tape recordings to the press, forcing an official investigation. Despite this, the sex-trafficking continues, as Ivan forces Luba to help recruit new slaves. Closing titles explain that, although a tribunal ruled that Kathy was unfairly dismissed by Dyncorp, the company thrives and the trafficking has not stopped.

Comments:

The Whistleblower tries to cram so much information into 115 pages, while still attempting to be thrilling and entertaining, that it’s ultimately undone by its own ambition. It puts dissemination of facts ahead of compelling drama, and quantity of characters over quality. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act already shows signs that the script has bitten off more than it can chew, as it ambles from Kathy’s American life to her introduction to Sarajevo and the U.N. to her discovery of the sex-slave operation. Although the second act does provide a reasonable amount of tension as the investigation gets more complicated and the U.N. tries harder to impede the investigation, the writers introduce so many different story threads and characters that it grows more and more convoluted. The third act continues this trend, not building to a true resolution so much as sputtering toward a poorly defined finish line. Kathy exposed the human trafficking problems in this part of the world, but she couldn’t stop anything. That may punctuate the movie’s theme, but it provides a disappointing non-conclusion instead of a note of finality.

The story starts by delivering a lot of facts about Kathy’s life in Nebraska, but the writers never really dig into her as a character. Her humanity gets lost in a sea of new characters; there are points in the second act where it seems like new characters are introduced on every single page, but few of them are seen or heard from after appearing for a scene or two. All these people show up at the expense of Kathy’s development; her true feelings about what she’s doing and why are rarely acknowledged. The attempt to tap into her emotions by sprinkling brief scenes with her teenage daughter don’t quite work. Every supporting character comes across as thin because there’s so much story and so many characters. Streamlining with composite characters would have benefited the script’s focus. Without rooting the audience firmly in an empathetic central character like Kathy, it’s hard to care what’s happening on the screen no matter how brutal or harrowing the behavior.

Casting a recognizable star with a powerful presence in the role of Kathy may help The Whistleblower create the illusion of focus, intensity, and depth. Even with such an actress, it will likely remain a convoluted mess.

Posted by D. B. Bates on April 29, 2009 6:49 PM