Canadian documentary filmmaker explores the ethics around organ trading


Auckland, New Zealand hosted the world premiere of Tales from the Organ Trade.


Canadian director Ric Esther Bienstock takes questions from the audience after the world premiere of Tales from the Organ Trade. She is pictured with Dan Shanan, Festival Director.


Ms Bienstock accepting her award for “Best Sign of the Times” at the Gala Awards Night.

For many people all over the world organ transplants are needed but are in short supply. Meanwhile, there are thousands of poverty-stricken people who are so desperately in need of money that they sell their organs for as much as US$2000.

Every year thousands of organs are bought and sold on the black market as the ill and the poor struggle to maintain their lives. Canadian filmmaker Ric Esther Bienstock’s documentary Tales from the Organ Trade poses the ethical question – if both sides benefit, what is the problem?

Ms Bienstock recently travelled to New Zealand for the world premiere of her documentary, which screened as part of the annual Documentary Edge Film Festival. The film won best documentary in its category.

 “New Zealand has the exact same problems that we do in Canada, the United States and Europe. The organ donation rate in New Zealand is very low. There are a lot of people on the waiting list.” –Ric Esther Bienstock

In New Zealand there are 100-120 organ transplants a year, and people wait five years for a transplant. While no exact numbers exist, it is thought that half a dozen New Zealanders have paid for a kidney overseas in the last decade.

 “By partnering with the Documentary New Zealand Trust, Canada was able to promote a high profile Canadian documentary to New Zealanders that touched on an important human rights issue. Having Ms Bienstock here in New Zealand for the world premiere of her documentary really gave it some great exposure.” - Caroline Chrétien, High Commissioner of Canada to New Zealand

The Government of Canada is focused on promoting respect for human rights and addressing the transnational organized crime of organ trafficking, which is a growing problem in the South Asia region.  Supporting the screening of this documentary is but one way for Canada to draw attention to this emerging issue.

Listen to Ms Bienstock’s interview on Radio New Zealand National and learn more about Tales from the Organ Trade.