Witness (Single Episode Review)

Here’s another TV critique from 1995.  In my earlier posting, I mentioned an assignment we were given in TV Broadcasting that year.  We watched four different types of Canadian programming and then wrote reviews for each show.  We were asked to critique one episode of SCTV, The Dini Petty Show, Ghostwriter and Witness.
Of the four shows I watched, the only one that held my interest was Witness, a CBC documentary series.  I remember this particular episode vividly.  It’s a real eye-opener. 
Unlike the previous review of The Dini Petty Show, I needed to make some small changes to this review.  Four sentences have been excised:  the opening two sentences and two more lines from the second-to-last paragraph.  They just weren’t necessary and I think the review flows better without them. 
Originally, I began the review with this:  “For decades, Canadian filmmakers have been respected worldwide for their documentaries on important issues and people.  Most of these films are made for the big screen but others are often aired on CBC Television.”  Actually, almost all Canadian documentaries go right to TV.  I can only think of one off-hand (Deadly Currents) that actually played at the cinema.  So, upon scrunity, that second sentence doesn’t hold up.  The opening line is probably true but again, I feel it’s unnecessary today.  So they’re out of the review.  I wanted to go right into my thoughts about the episode without any stalling.
I’ve also dropped lines talking about how “the documentaries it showcases every week are tragic and very depressing.  But they are never boring.”  I have no idea now why I wrote that when I don’t remember actually watching many episodes of this program.  So, they’re out of the review, as well.
Of all four TV reviews I wrote for college all those years ago, this is easily my favourite.  I’d much rather write reviews about good entertainment.  It’s a lot more satisfying.
A Review of WITNESS
WITNESS is a terrific hour-long program, hosted by journalist Knowlton Nash, that showcases a short documentary each week concerning current issues affecting Canada and the rest of the world.
On a recent episode, entitled “The Body Parts Business”, Bruce Harris, an international social worker and executive director of the Covenant House, travelled to Central America, South America and Asia to investigate a peculiar problem among the lower class.  Hundreds of street children have been kidnapped, and later, killed for their internal organs due to the enormous demand for organ transplants.  In one capital city alone, eight hundred young people have disappeared.  Many of their bodies have yet to be found.
This disturbing documentary, wonderfully narrated by Harris, is crammed with facts and figures and features some shocking footage of victims who have survived attempts on their lives but still suffered the loss of important body parts.  One man, a former mental patient, lost both his corneas when he was only 16.  He was rescued by his two faithful brothers after being dumped in a local sewer.  The man cannot see now and totally relies on his brothers to assist him in everyday life.
Bruce Harris believes there is a black market, specializing in trading organs, that obtains its goods by hunting down innocent children for their internal organs.  Lucrative body parts such as the heart, liver and eyeballs have also been removed from mental patients who are still alive while these horrible operations take place.
WITNESS is not exactly a show that can be deemed family entertainment.  This particular episode is extremely fascinating and makes you wonder why people can be so cruel when it comes to making money.  The show is well-researched, well-photographed and appropriately gruesome when it needs to be.  My only problem with the documentary is that it really doesn’t cover all sides of the issue.  Many times we are subjected to only the dark side of organ trading.  There has to be something positive about it.
Nevertheless, if documentary filmmaking and world issues fascinate you, then WITNESS is the TV show for you.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, October 5, 2006
2:26 a.m.
Published in: on October 5, 2006 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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