BYPASS the movie that has everybody talking due to its somewhat controversial promotional tactics. And rightly so. The topic of illegal organ trade is one that deserves a stir.
The movie, Africa’s first medical thriller, is due for national release at selected Ster Kinekor Movie theatres on Friday, 12 May 2017. Produced by Media Village Productions, Bypass stars well known South African actors Natalie Becker-Aakervik, Hakeem-Kae Kazim, Deon Lotz and Greg Kriek. It highlights the reality of the illegal trade in human organs and its director/producers hope that those who watch it will become organ donors and contribute to the solution.
‘’If there were sufficient legal organs available the need for a black-market trade would decrease significantly,’’ says Samantha Nicholls from the Organ Donor Association of South Africa.
Many South Africans have been disturbed by flyers that have been distributed at various traffic lights around Cape Town, promoting organs for sale and directing those interested to. These pamphlets, as well as the website, form part of the movie’s promotional campaign – designed to draw attention to a trade that is very real.
Husband and wife director/producer duo Shane and Bianca Vermooten have devised these promotional tactics to not only encourage South African’s to watch the film but also as a means of social activism. Their desire is to bring this issue into the public eye. Many filmmakers are proactively addressing burning issues that impact our societies, and Bypass has without doubt joined the conversation with its take on illegal organ donation. The fact that such a noble production comes out of South Africa marks our growth within the industry and how we have evolved in terms of film production.
Many slasher movies deal with the topic of organ removal, but in most cases are rooted in gore and scare tactics to thrill audiences. Bypass, however, sends a clear message: Organ trafficking is a frightening reality that prays on the desperation of the wealthy and the vulnerability of the poor.
‘’From the outset of creating Bypass I had three concepts that I wasn’t willing to compromise on. Bypass was going to be in English, it was going to be a thriller and the protagonist had to be a strong female of colour. During our writing process we came across an organ trafficking case where more than 100 illegal operations had taken place in one of our national hospitals. Highlighting a common misconception that black market organs are only traded in far off “African” countries, when often it is taking place right under our noses in “legitimate” hospitals,’’ concludes Mr Vermooten.
He goes on to add, “Myself and the writing team wanted to take a concept that we believe in; ‘Every human life is of equal worth’. We took this concept and applied it to an issue as complex and personal as organ transplantation. This movie explores a mother’s love for her dying son and makes us question how far we would go to save our own child’s life.”
In 2007, WHO estimated that out of all transplants worldwide, 5–10% were conducted illegally. In 2011, it was estimated that the illicit ‘organ trade’ generated illegal profits between USD 600 million and USD 1.2 billion per year. Underground ‘organ markets’ present a significant threat to the security of national organ donation systems, eroding the image of transplantation and public confidence in organ transplantation worldwide. Vermooten concludes, “We want our audiences to go to the movie theatre, and have a thrilling journey from start to finish. It is important to note that Bypass is a fictional medical thriller and is no way meant to be a documentary. We pose a few questions around the issue but then we want to leave it to our audiences to take the conversation further. The Organ Donor Foundation does amazing work in this field and as a result are the perfect partner to help drive the conversation around organ transplantation and donation.”
Of her role in the movie, Natalie Becker-Aakervik says, “I hope that this film creates much needed awareness for organ trafficking and that together we can create a movement that will make a difference.” Natalie and her husband Mikkel are working with the Organ Donor Foundation in Norway (Stiftelsen Organdonasjen) which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and as a result the couple are assisting them in creating awareness.
As director Mr. Vermooten has balanced the sensitivity of the pain felt by those in need of an organ with the brutality of this practice. From the opening scene, set in a state-of–the art operating theatre in Cape Town, to the closing image you will not be able to miss a beat of this South Africa’s first medical thriller.