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- Cleveland International Film Festival




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A slum in Chennai, India. Home of the discarded, the starving – and now, also the home of a desperate tsunami refugee camp, on the outskirts of an indifferent city. Out here, survival means selling a kidney.

Hema, a young mother of two, wants to sell her kidney so she can pay off the crippling debts of her family. A broker tells Hema she'll get $2500 for her kidney. If she sells she will be the fifth member of her family to sell a kidney for an amount that represents several years' wages.

Across the world in Nanaimo, Canada. Forty year old single mom Sandra's kidneys are failing and she has been on a waiting list for 5 years now, for a new kidney. Her condition has left her chained to a dialysis machine, four times a day, every day, if she is to live.

Two different people. Two journeys. With one end. To find a kidney, someone has to lose one….

The Market follows individual stories that explore the larger issues surrounding the organ trade - and looks at these issues from both a Western point of view as well as from the point of view of people selling their organs. What are the ethics of organ buying and selling? And, what would we ourselves do if we were forced into a similar dilemma?

Buy. Or sell?

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.

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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.

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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

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Rama Rau – Director
Rama Rau is a writer-director who trained in films on one of the largest film sets in Mumbai, India. Now based in Toronto, Canada, her passion is to make films that are crosscultural and examine "the extraordinariness of ordinary lives". Rama's films include The Market (2010), A Day in the Life of Vij's (2009), and Losing My Religion (2008 - Reel World Film Festival, Toronto). Her debut film, Fingers of Fire (2006), premiered at the 2006 New York International Film Festival. She's currently in production on My Life With Me which looks at single life in urban dystopias. Rama has won the Tom Shoebridge Screenwriting Award, received the 'Filmmaker of the Year' award by the Toronto Business Forum and has been named a Quebecor Fellow of DOC, Toronto. She is an alumnus of the Doc Lab at Hot Docs (2007) and has served on various arts council juries as well as on the DOC Toronto Board.

Ricardo Acosta - Editor
Ricardo Acosta immigrated to Canada from his native Cuba in 1993.  Before coming to Toronto, he studied and worked with the world renowned Cuban Film Institute in Havana.  For the past twelve years Ricardo has edited both documentary and dramatic films, which have been shown around the world.

His outstanding work has contributed to the making of several award-winning films including: Shooting Indians, A Journey With Jeffrey Thomas directed by Ali Kazimi (Genie Award nomination for Best Short Documentary); Unbound directed by Claudia Morgado (Berlin Film Festival Award for Best Short Film); Spirits of Havana produced by the NFB (Genie Award nomination for Best Documentary); The Take directed by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis (Gemini nomination for The Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program & for Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series); Runaway Groom directed by Ali Kazimi (Gemini Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program); and Tiger Spirit directed by Min Sook Lee (Gemini Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program).

Ricardo was chosen to be a fellow by the Sundance Institute in 2006 for the Documentary Film Editing and Story Laboratory.

Ed Barreveld - Producer
Ed Barreveld has been making films since 1986 when he joined the Ontario Studio of Oscar-winning National Film Board of Canada. He has been an independent producer since 1996, focusing on point of view, auteur driven documentaries.

Since 2004, Barreveld has been the sole principal of Storyline Entertainment, the company he co-founded in 2000 for the company's inaugural release of the award winning documentary Aftermath: The Remnants of War.  Barreveld's films have been broadcast globally, have shown at major international festivals such as Hot Docs, IDFA, Toronto International Film Festival and have garnered many awards, including Gemini Awards for Shipbreakers (2005) and Tiger Spirit (2009).  2010 saw the release of Resilience: Stories of Single Black Mothers, The Real M*A*S*H and The Market. Barreveld is based in Toronto, Canada

Ken Myhr - Composer
Ken's musical life began listening to his father play jazz stride piano and sing barbershop. After a few lessons he taught himself to play electric guitar and spent his early life making a lot of noise whenever and wherever possible. This lead to performing on concert stages worldwide from The Royal Albert Hall to the David Letterman Show. More recently he has created scores for over 90 films including Love, Hate &Propoganda (CBC), Geologic Journey (The Nature of Things), My Toxic Baby (Storyline), Diamond Road (Kensington), earning a Golden Sheaf Award and multiple Gemini Nominations in the process. For more info go to

Paul Kell - DOP
For over 10 years Paul Kell has worked as a professional Director & Director of Photography with broadcast & theatrical credits that have taken him all over the world: Europe, India, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, the Galapagos, the USA and Canada. Paul's work is multiple award winning, has screened at over 40 film festivals worldwide and has been broadcast on Discovery/Planet Green, BET/Centric, MTV, Starz, Showcase (Canada), TVO (Canada), Omni (Canada), The Documentary Channel, IFC, ABC (Australia), MuchMusic (Canada), YES DBS (Israel), Free Speech (USA), Canal Planete (Poland) and is available on Netflix and iTunes. For more info please visit his website:

Iris Ng - DOP
Iris Ng is a graduate of Film and Video Production at York University with a background in still photography, visual art and music. She began her cinematography career by shooting her first independent feature film while studying at York and has since worked on narrative, experimental, and documentary films which have taken her to China, Egypt, Europe, and across North America.

Her artistic background has been an asset to her collaborations with established artists as well as award-winning film directors including Min Sook Lee, Giselle Portenier, and Sarah Polley. Her recent credits with Storyline include My Toxic Baby, Resilience: Stories of Single Black Mothers, and The Market.

Lisa Valencia-Svensson - Associate Producer
Lisa Valencia-Svensson's first films, Borderless and Sedition, directed by award-winning filmmaker Min Sook Lee have screened at festivals globally. Since 2007 she has been working at Storyline Entertainment, where she produced Resilience: Stories of Single Black Mothers.  She has a number of documentary projects in development, including The House That Herman Built. Lisa has a background in finance, community media, and research work.  She plans to continue working on film projects which explore political issues and socially relevant themes, and which encourage audiences to view their world through a constructively critical lens.

Amanda Feder - Production Coordinator
Amanda Feder graduated with honors from Ryerson University's Film Studies program, where she focused her degree on writing and producing.  Amanda has written and produced short segments for CNN International and Salt & Light Television, and has worked as a researcher for Gemini-nominated documentary filmmaker Andrée Cazabon.  She has been working at Storyline Entertainment since August 2008. She's currently working on her film Sex on Wheels.

Peter Sawade - Location Sound
Peter Sawade is a Gemini-award winning sound recordist, who has done on-location sound for hundreds of award-winning productions that have taken him around the world.

Daniel Pellerin - Sound Design
Daniel Pellerin is one of Canada's finest recording and re-recording mixer/engineers, sound designers and music supervisors.  He has worked with a who's who of Canadian filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan, Clement Virgo, James Cameron, Shelley Saywell, Min Sook Lee, Michael Kot, Ron Mann and Bruce MacDonald.  He has been nominated for 10 Genie Awards of which he has won three (Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter, Istvan Szabo's Sunshine and Clement Virgo's Love Come Down).  He has been nominated for 16 Gemini Awards, for which he has won two (Musicians in Exile and Under the Piano). He has worked extensively with Storyline Entertainment and he was the supervising mixer for Min Sook Lee's Tiger Spirit and My Toxic Baby.

Nagaraj Diwaker - Additional Camera

Nagaraj graduated from the Bangalore Film and Television Institute (FTII). "For me cinematography is like conversation with light and shadow, my lighting is realistic. I strive for a realistic approach". I started my career as a still photographer and won the State Award for Best Portrait of the year, in 1997 from Karnataka India. After that, I've now worked the past eight years in Indian cinema, professionally. I started as a gaffer in a feature film called "NAACH" directed by Ram Gopal Verma. I've also worked on a film called "FOR REAL" which won international awards, shot a short film in a single shot (SNAKE TRAP) nominated for best cinematography from IDA, and shot documentaries, RIVER SIDE CALCUTTA and INDIA JOURNEY. As a DP, I've shot many commercials, Saffola, Incredible India, and on Raaz Pechele Janam ka (on NDTV Imagine), which is most popular show in India and am currently working on TRAVEL TO ANDAMANS, a travel show.

TVO (December 2012)

Karama Human Rights Film Festival (December 2012)

HumanDOC International Film Festival (October 2012)

CineMigrante (October 2012)

Bollywood & Beyond Film Festival (July 2012)

Village Doc (June 2012)

ReFrame Peterborough (January 2012)

TVO (December 2011)

Knowledge Network (December 2011)

Festival do Rio (October 2011)

Film Southasia (September 2011)

The Market airs on Arte France (September 2011)

Dawson Creek Justice Film Festival (March 2012)

Sarnia Justice Film Festival (March 2012)

Red Deer Justice Film Festival (January 2012)

Marda Loop Justice Film Festival (November 2011)

One World Human Rights Film Festival Kyrgyzstan (September 2011)

BelDocs (May 2011)

DOXA (May 11, 2011)

DocuDays Ukraine (March 2011)

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (March 2011)

Cleveland International Film Festival (March 2011)

One World International Human Rights Documentary Festival (March 2011)

Victoria Film Festival (Feb 2011)

IDFA (Nov 2010)

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The Market gets 2 Canadian Screen Award nominations - Best Social/Political Program & Best Original Music!

The Market wins Best Documentary at the 2012 Stuttgart Indian Film Festival

The film featured on

Review on

The Market wins a Gold Panda Award for Best Documentary Director

Rama Rau wins 2011 Don Haig Award at Hot Docs (Realscreen)

Rama Rau wins 2011 Don Haig Award at Hot Docs (Playback)

Rama Rau wins 2011 Don Haig Award at Hot Docs (Variety)

Director Rama Rau's short film, Aftermath, is invited to screen at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival

Jason Whyte from eFilmCritic talks to Director Rama Rau

Victoria Film Festival coverage in Monday Magazine

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