The Mistreatment of Illegal Immigrants and Low-Level Workers
The plight of illegal immigrants and low-level workers is often misunderstood, and these unnoticed persons are the people around whom director Stephen Frears’s Dirty Pretty Things revolves. The lead character Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) describes the other major characters as “The people you do not see” (Dirty Pretty Things). Their existence is transparent, and this invisibility most commonly works against their success—they are easy to extort. Once in awhile, the anonymity of these unseen people provides the perfect cover for their getting back at mainstream society, and if there is any satisfaction to be gained by what Dirty Pretty Things depicts, it is that in the end, the unseen people prevail over those who would use them.
The plot of Dirty Pretty Things explores a human-organ clearing house set in the Baltic hotel and run by Sneaky (Sergi López), the hotel’s head clerk. Sneaky is a citizen of London, so he is able to force illegals to trade their organs—generally one of their kidneys—for a visa. Because illegal immigrants often work in low-level jobs, they remain faceless people who can be taken advantage of: not too many people pay attention to hotel maids or cab drivers.
This was an appalling storyline, but one that opened my eyes to the dangerous situations that illegals can be exposed to and just how greedy and cruel legal citizens can be to them. Thinking about the difficulties encountered by immigrants, I never imagined anything like organ harvesting as a means for illegals to gain their papers. It also opened my eyes to a side of greed that I hadn’t imagined: that one human being would be willing to risk the lives of others for cash. What I saw in Dirty Pretty Things was just what desperation can do to a person.
The problem of immigration is complicated, but there have to be ways to protect those who are trying to change where they live and work from having to give up organs. Perhaps there could be hotlines set up to report this type of abuse. Certainly, the more people who see Dirty Pretty Things and see just what can happen to those who are unnoticed in society, the better. Awareness is one way that an organ-harvesting scheme like the one in this movie can be prevented. Even though the “bad” guy got it in the end, the lives that were lost made it un unfair trade.
Dirty Pretty Things. Dir. Stephen Frears. Perf. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sophie Okonedo, Sergi López, and Benedict Wong. Miramax, 2002.