Facebook Follow StorylineEnt on Twitter


Twelve years ago, when I was still living in India, I had maids who had scars. When they used to casually tell us they had sold their kidneys, I did not see it as a symptom of a larger evil.

Now, I have become a documentary and drama filmmaker and when I think back on those scars that I did nothing about, it’s a simple thing to answer, when people ask me how I managed to stay motivated, to make this film through two long years of research and three years of production – I did it for the women.

The Market is just a small part, a very important, but small part of a whole, that will hopefully lead to an argument here, a discussion there and an awakening to the fact that we are slipping and sliding into a world where we can think that buying a body part from our less fortunate brothers and sisters could actually be okay, if they are agreeable to it. That’s why, though I had the choice of making a film on people who were kidnapped for their body parts, horrific though that is, I preferred to make a film on what is, to me at least, a far more horrifying thing. The fact that in many parts of the world the kidney is becoming an accepted form of collateral, for money: a flourishing underground market whose tentacles are growing, even as you read this. A trade that spreads exponentially because every seller is a potential broker, every broker taking you a step closer to becoming a part of The Market.

Filming this kind of a film would normally have been journalistic, analytical and perhaps even with a hidden camera. A lot of people I spoke with during research assumed I’d make this film like an investigative journalist and I did meet with some opposition where I was told ‘many’ films had been made on the kidney trade. But I had a secret no one else knew about. I could speak with these women in their own language, sit with them on the floor in their 8 x 8 huts, talk to them about their innermost hopes and dreams. Because I knew them, I had lived with them and taught them English, given them employment so they could feed their children. I knew this would be a film with no hidden cameras, no ‘investigative journalism’ tactics and most of all, I’d focus not on the fact that they sell their kidneys, but why they would do so. Being a mom myself, it was important for me to understand the kind of desperation it would take for me to cut a body part and sell it, to feed my kids. Would I do it, if this were me?

Another thing I was certain about was that I also wanted to tell the story of western kidney patients with empathy. Now, I’m very aware of ‘west-bashing’ and how that would make my job easy. Take a wealthy white character and portray them in such a way that you have a rapacious first world ‘buyer’ on one side and a victimized third world ‘seller’ on the other. Too easy, I thought. I wanted a fortyish, single mom struggling with a lot more than kidney disease. I trolled kidney blogs, became administrator on many kidney facebook pages, met many many people, wrote to kidney patients, called them, even filmed some across Canada. And then I stumbled upon Christina’s blog. It was called ‘A Kidney for my Daughter’ and she had laid out, in simple terms, why her daughter Sandra who was on the waiting list, needed a kidney. That’s how I found gentle, conflicted Sandra. I knew I had as strong a western story as the eastern one and I asked if she’d be in the film.

I truly believe the characters and people I met while making this film are all a gift. Sandra, Christina, Kylie, Prabha and Hema. Many people who see the film hate Prabha, the tough broker. But again, she is conflicted. Should she broker her sister’s kidney and make some money off the commission or should she save her sister from selling her kidney and going through the pain of surgery? Dr. Reddy too, is a person I find fascinating. In a film like this, it’s easy to put the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ into iron clad categories, but I’ve resisted. He was always open about his stance. He was charming, wonderful to talk to and of the firm belief that kidney trade should be legalized.

After long chats with Dr. Reddy, I realized what the ending of the film really is – there are no simple answers. No pat endings can happen, with such a vast canvas. So, all I hoped to do was touch the viewer, make them see things in a different way, awaken that sleeping giant in each of us that will start asking questions, why, what, how, but….

If even one person wants to donate their organs after watching The Market, I would be happy. Donating organs, raising awareness and talking about it are the only way we can stop the engulfing horror of our own making. We will be that much nearer to stopping this Market. Because the true danger is not across the seas, in a far away land.

The Market is here. It’s you and me.

I'd like to place on record that I could not have made this film without Ed Barreveld, my wonderful producer and Ricardo Acosta, my brilliant editor. Their contributions and unstinting support throughout has been a great source of strength when I needed it most. I also want to thank Jane Jankovic of TVO who's been with me along this journey, right from the beginning, always believing in me and my ability to tell this story. And of course, my family and all the others who helped me, thank you.