In India, a baby costs 14 euros. A woman in Albania is 800 and 30 head of cattle, and a Kalashnikov will buy a bride in southern Sudan. 25 million dollars was the price the US government put on the heads of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife received 1.2 billion euros in their divorce.
Can a price be put on human life? The answer would seem to be “no”: a human being is priceless, his worth cannot be determined in terms of money. The very idea appears to violate the principle of human dignity. And yet determining the concrete value of a person is exactly what innumerable experts worldwide are engaged in: healthcare economists, insurance brokers, doctors, politicians. Their calculations affect traffic accident victims and fallen soldiers; they play a role in developing environmental and disaster plans and in measuring the “human capital” of a business; and they determine the prices paid for hostages, sex slaves and surrogate mothers.
“What am I worth?” This concrete, almost naive question is the film’s starting point. The filmmaker asks it both of himself and of his protagonists throughout the world. And he discovers the most astonishing schemes for measuring human value. What criteria do people like Kenneth Feinberg, a US government compensation specialist, use to determine the amount to be paid out to the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks? Why is the life of a firefighter who died a hero in the Twin Towers worth on average a million euros less than that of a dead stockbroker? Why might it be “uneconomical”, following the calculations of Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of the National Institute for Health in London, to put an elderly man on dialysis? At what point does each of us become a write-off? In a series of episodes that gradually interweave with each other, the film pursues the issue of what it means to buy and sell human beings like any other commodity. The audience is led into a world where the monetary calculation of human worth has long since become business as usual. The insights provided are as shocking as they are revealing; cruelty meets and mixes with absurdity and even dissolves at times into high comedy.
THE PRICE OF MY LIFE – A road movie through the fascinating and bizarre world of those who appraise human worth.