NEW YORK (Reuters) - For whistleblower Kathy Bolkovac, life hasn’t exactly turned out like it did for Erin Brockovich.
Some audiences seeing a new film, “The Whistleblower” based on former international law enforcement official Bolkovac, might think justice was served as she battled government organizations to expose human trafficking in Bosnia.
But others watching the movie, which opens in the United States on Friday, might think differently when they find out what happened to Bolkovac in the aftermath of her work, especially if comparing Bolkovac to Brockovich.
When Hollywood-backed “Erin Brockovich” hit theaters in 2000 with its tale of a real-life law clerk who took on giant U.S. utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the real Erin Brockovich found fame and fortune.
Bolkovac told Reuters she has been turned down for jobs at various police and security companies. She now works at an auctioneer of construction equipment in The Netherlands.
“I have a real life and a real job which I have to work really hard at,” she said of her work at Richie Brothers Auctioneers. At night, she lobbies politicians to “try and keep my law enforcement background in there, because that’s really who I am at heart — a cop.”
“The Whistleblower,” which stars Rachel Weisz as Bolkovac, is based on her story as former policewoman from Nebraska who gets a job with the international peacekeeping force to rebuild post-war Bosnia in 1999. Once there, she exposes a crime ring that includes U.N. and U.S. State Department officers and is involved in holding girls aged 12- to 15-years-old as sex slaves and trafficking them throughout Eastern Europe.
The film also highlights wider issues, such as police corruption and problems with defense contractors hired to help fight wars or rebuild countries.
The low-budget thriller is inspired by Bolkovac’s life, which she also wrote about in a book of the same name following the film, but the new movie changes details of her background and combines the personalities of several real people into composite characters. Others are real, such as Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave), who was then the head of the Women’s Rights and Gender Unit.
Bolkovac was fired from her peacekeeping job and was then without a job for two years, lost her police retirement funds and had to re-educate herself for new work because returning to the U.S. to resume a career as a local cop would have been “a step back.”
“It’s been very difficult for the past ten years,” Bolkovac said. “It is really emotional to me when I stop and think about it. I probably have broken down and cried about it a few times when it has been really overwhelming.”
Weisz called Bolkovac “a contemporary hero”.
“Kathy just says ‘I was a police officer. I was trying to investigate a crime.’ But she seems to be one of the only ones who had the courage to do what she did,” Weisz told Reuters in a separate interview. “I just find that very moving.”
But Bolkovac, who is of Croatian descent, said she is not looking for praise or riches. She hopes to fulfill what she calls her “social responsibility” and go back to full-time monitoring and training international police forces.
“I was never in this for the money,” said the mother of three. “I was doing my job and that is all I was there to do...it’s just who I am.”
As for being compared to Erin Brockovich, Bolkovac said “people keep saying, ‘well she’s a hero.’ The real heroes are the victims and the survivors,” she said. “They are the girls that were there (in Bosnia) to try and change their lives and got taken into this industry and organized crime.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte