Saturday, June 24, 2006


Audrey Tautou, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo

"Some things are too dangerous to keep a secret."


Despite being the big soccer fan that I am, I needed to take a break from watching all those football matches in the World Cup. Rummaging through my collection of VCDs which were piled in the 'films I have yet to watch' section, I came across "Dirty Pretty Things." This film was recommended to me by a friend so when I found it in the P99 collection at the video store, naturally I bought it.
It is basically an immigrant story. A Nigerian illegal immigrant in London who works at a hotel stumbles upon this secret yet lucrative business of indigent people selling their organs. Usually performed in unsanitary conditions in one of the rooms of the hotel, most of the 'patients' are illegals who need the money to make ends meet. It is mostly a forgotten part of society composed of illegal immigrants who come to London (UK) to escape a harsh life back in their home countries only to be victims of exploitation. It is a never ending cycle, really. An industry where people with health problems are willing to buy organs from the black market. Poor illegal immigrants without the proper documents are willing to sell their organs so they can be paid cash or are given forged documents like Identity cards and/or passports. The middle man who finds the victims and serve as go between in these degrading transactions. This film directed by Stephen Frears is an eye opener to the underlying microcosm of London that we don't really see nor talk about openly in coffee shops. But I guess the setting is irrelevant because it can happen anywhere where illegal immigrants are routinely prevalent and open to exploitation. They are often taken advantage of and usually it is way beyond their control.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Okwe, the Nigerian immigrant is a forceful actor. His portrayal is haunting as well as pathetically convincing. You can really commiserate with Okwe's conflict to make a better life for himself in London while still trying to uphold his morality. That despite his unfortunate situation, he is still a humane person who is forced by circumstances to take a stand against injustice and human right abuses. Ejiofor is also seen in "Inside Man" as the partner of police hostage negotiator Denzel Washington. As well as in "Love Actually" as the husband of Keira Knightely. This is Audrey Tautou's first English speaking role. She is Senay, a Turkish refugee who goes through a lot of despicable acts that abuses her rights as a woman and more importantly as a person. Her accent though is a mix of Middle Eastern, French and English that it is sometimes hard to figure out what she is mumbling about. Her sad doe eyed expression is very heart wrenching. I do like the subtle chemistry that develops between Senay and Okwe. The other actors all portray immigrants too from different countries all working in the hotel. In fact, there wasn't any British person in the film except maybe for its director, Stephen Frears. The film though does have some glaring loopholes yet somehow it seems inconsequential to question them. It is enough that Stephen Frears presented us a film that evokes a lot of emotional anxiety so we somehow numb ourselves to the flaws of the film.
"Pretty Dirty Things" is a difficult movie to watch. You can't help but feel bad about the lives of illegal immigrants. How people are forced by circumstances to do pretty dirty things in this world. Why? Because they managed to escape from a much harsh fate back in their war torn impoverished countries. Yet despite all these really deplorable situations, I'm more shocked at the fact these people are still ever so hopeful. Their dreams of making it good still continue to flourish. If that isn't an evocative fighting human spirit then I don't know what it is.

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