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Learning About ‘Larry’s Kidney’: A Richard Linklater Film on Hold

Director Richard Linklater. (Image: rtfut via Compfight cc)
Director Richard Linklater. (Image: rtfut via Compfight cc)

At the Melbourne premiere of the documentary Hard to Believe, China analyst and author of The Slaughter, Ethan Gutmann, gave us some bad news and some good news. I came to know about a book based on true events that was to be made into a film Richard Linklater would direct. This film could’ve had devastating consequences for the non-consenting prisoners of conscience who are victims to live organ harvesting in China.

Hard to Believe is a documentary by two-time Emmy Award-winning Director Ken Stone, on the killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs in China today.

Watch the trailer here:

Ethan Gutmann is a widely published, award-winning investigative writer, China analyst, human rights defender, and author.

Here is an overview of his latest book, The Slaughter:

The bad news was that organ harvesting in China is increasing as more hospitals are being built to facilitate this.

The good news was that the Hard to Believe documentary was being brought to the people so although we may not have the power at present to stop it, we have the power to do our part, which is not to become complicit.

In Australia, with this information, we should demand a count of the numbers of patients who go to China for transplants. We don’t need to know who they are — just numbers. With this information, we then can set some laws to make sure that we aren’t involved in the killing of innocent people for organ transplants. We should draw a line.

The medical community plays a big role here; it is their reputation that is at stake if they choose not to hold China responsible for their unethical transplant practices. If they separate themselves from the transplant surgeons in China involved in this, then small things might start to change. Doctors and nurses are people in society we trust to look after us. They need to be aware so they can make sure their patients know not to travel to China for transplants.

Queensland’s two major organ transplant hospitals banned training Chinese surgeons because of concerns that China takes organs from executed prisoners. This was in 2006. But what about the rest of the hospitals in Australia? It is 10 years on.

Also, we can sign this petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling for an immediate end to forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China.

In the documentary, I was surprised to learn about a book called Larry’s Kidney, published in 2009. The cover of the book sums up the story: “Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant and Save His Life.” It’s a comedy based on a true story.

Although the writing is said to have some touching and eccentric moments, in the documentary Hard to Believe we learn the one thing this book did was put a message out to America to say: “China is open for transplant business.” For prisoners of conscience and their families, this is bad news. It paints a picture that life in China holds a lesser value to life in the West — it seems unbalanced in this respect.

You can read a more in-depth review here from a reader who has a similar critique.

Here is the author describing the book:

In 2014, Director Richard Linklater, who directed films such as Boyhood, School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly, and Before Sunrise, was set to direct a film adaptation of Larry’s Kidney. It would star Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. The duo would star as the cousins who travel to China for a kidney transplant.

At the Q&A with Ethan Gutmann after the screening of Hard to Believe, we learned he sent the producers of Larry’s Kidney an electronic copy of his book The Slaughter in an bid for them to consider how many lives this might affect if the film was to go ahead.

The film was put on hold, which leads us to believe the producers of the film may have considered the lives of the prisoners of conscience more valuable than the money made from a comedy film. Due to lack of coverage in the mainstream media, you can understand that it maybe hadn’t occurred to them before they read the book just how serious an issue it is — the subject of un-ethical organ transplants in China. I like to think it’s good news that Hollywood has a conscience, in this regard.

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