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The Market was an interesting and complex film from the very onset. When Rama Rau, the director and I first talked about the project, the question we asked ourselves was "what would we do if we, or one of our loved ones, needed a kidney to survive?" There was no easy answer when we started the film and 3 years later after we completed the film, there still is no easy answer. Yet that question was always first and foremost on our minds during research, pre-production, production and post-production.

We realized that it would be difficult to provide a clear-cut answer and the film is less about giving an answer than an examination, from different perspectives, of the kidney shortage problem and the ethics involved in obtaining a new kidney, or any other new organ for that matter.

As filmmakers we were blessed in many ways – as terrible as that may sound in a film that tackles such a horrible issue. During a research trip to Chennai, formerly known as Madras, in 2008, Rama spent considerable time looking for people involved in the kidney trade. Finding "donors" was not that difficult. Chennai was hit heavy by the 2006 Indian Ocean tsunami. Many of the residents had relied on fishing as their primary source of income but after the tsunami, many of the fishermen were reluctant to return to sea and consequently unable to provide for their families.

Selling kidneys had already been commonplace but with so much unemployment and mouths to feed, many people, especially women resorted to selling kidneys to support their families. In fact, so many people had sold their kidneys that the slum they lived in was renamed "kidney village". During Rama's research she found people who brokered kidneys and she also came across Gheeta, a woman who was seriously considering selling her kidney to clear her family's debts. In Vancouver she found someone who had been on the kidney waiting list for more than 7 years and he and his wife were looking for alternatives to conventional methods.

We were able to travel to Vancouver and India with the support from TVOntario and the Canadian Television Fund (CTF, now CMF, the Canadian Media Fund). During our research we filmed so we could create a trailer to show our characters and access. The trailer convinced TVOntario to commit to production financing and in 2009 we were lucky to be selected by Sunnyside of the Doc, a yearly factual programming event in La Rochelle, France, to make a formal presentation to international broadcasters during their pitch forum, Best of International Programming Showcase (BIPS). Our pitch was very well received and when we returned to Canada, I not only believed that we were financed but in fact might be over-financed.

But broadcast decisions are no longer in the hands of solitary decision makers and the people we had met with had to make presentations to their decision committees. And slowly, we either never heard back or got rejections. The window for production was running out; it had been almost a year since our research trip, and our contacts were getting stale.

There were some positive notes; aside from TVOntario, we received support from three other Canadian broadcasters; Knowledge, Access and SCN (the Saskatchewan educational broadcaster which shortly after our commission was axed by the Saskatchewan government) stepped up to the plate with licence fees and CMF contributions. We also received a generous grant from the Rogers Documentary Fund.

With still a significant shortfall we had two options; either spend another 6 months to a year trying to raise funds to meet the budget, or drastically reduce the budget and go ahead to make the film. The decision was not easy but we had to be pragmatic; waiting to raise more money could mean that we would lose interest from our supporters and that the film would never get made. So the budget got slashed and we committed all our tax credits to round out the financing. It was a scary proposition with a film that required extensive travel within Canada and India and would mean that Rama and her team would have to spend considerable time in the field.

Then something wonderful happened. Early in 2010, I got an email from SWR, a German broadcaster we had met at Sunnyside, saying that our film was going forward for approval and that we would find out within two weeks whether they could come in. And like clockwork, two weeks later they were in. This allowed the budget to be bumped up to a more realistic level, which took enormous financial pressure off our company.

And so in February Rama set off for India to film. When she arrived there were a few surprises. Gheeta, the woman she met on her research trip, had sold her kidney. Prabha, one of the women who had just sold her kidney prior to Rama's research trip had turned broker. But Prabha turned out to be a wonderful character and she too had a surprise that fit beautifully in our story (I won't spoil the surprise – you have to watch the film…). After spending two months in India, Rama returned with great characters and compelling stories. We were fortunate that sellers, brokers and doctors responded well to Rama and we never had to resort to undercover filming; something we had promised our broadcasters we would never do.

But as we headed into editing, one very important element was missing. We had assured everyone that we would show seller, brokers and doctors but also buyers. And despite every best effort we had found none and so we hired an additional researcher and Rama trolled the Internet's social media groups and kidney forums. Just as our time was running out, Rama re-established contact with a woman she previously had been in touch with but who had fallen off the radar.

Christina had set up a blog looking for a kidney for her daughter Sandra. Coincidentally, when Rama had written the film's proposal, she had always envisioned a mid-life single parent who was looking for a kidney. That day the documentary gods were smiling; Sandra was in her early forties and the single parent of a teenage daughter, Kylie. Christina, Sandra and Kylie shared a home in Nanaimo, BC. Rama undertook a short trip to meet the family and see whether they would participate.

A week later our crew traveled to Vancouver to film the family. When they returned to Toronto, we realized that we had found the perfect subjects for our film. Sandra needed a kidney and both her mother and daughter were keen for her to explore options outside of the system. Within the family there was much conflict about this. All great documentary stuff. Cinematically, their location, Nanaimo, was located on the water, mirroring Chennai. Our characters on both sides of the world were female; our Indian characters were dark haired and skinned, our Canadian characters were fair skinned and haired (albeit with a little help from a bottle…) giving us many levels of similarity and contrast to work with in the editing room. And so Rama and editor Ricardo Acosta had plenty of material to create a compelling human story filled with surprises. The editing process wasn't always easy and we had to make some difficult decisions, occasionally pushing the documentary envelope. But what was created in the end was a beautiful story that we hope will stimulate debate about the trade in human organs and the commodification of our bodies.

We are grateful for all the subjects who had the courage to appear in the film and share their stories and for our wonderful crew and post-production team. We knew our film was a success when the film was selected by the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA), where the film premiered to an appreciative and critical audience in November 2010. The Market is now traveling the world!

Now that the film is out there, we hope it will accomplish what we set out to do. Meanwhile, we encourage you to fill out your organ donation card so that brave people like Sandra may live a long and healthy life.

Ed Barreveld
December 2010