Sundance 2019 Diplomacy Film Highlights

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Locals know to gear up for tens of thousands of visitors, celebrity sightings, and long lines at restaurants (and everywhere) around the epicenter of the Sundance Film Festival. Here are a few of the films that I’m looking forward to learning more about that feature themes relating to diplomacy and global affairs, with summaries from Indiewire:

 

Diplomacy

“Cold Case Hammarskjold​​” / Denmark (Director: Mads Brügger, Producers: Peter Engel, Andreas Rocksén, Bjarte M. Tveit) ​— ​Danish director Mads Brügger and Swedish private investigator Göran Bjorkdahl are trying to solve the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjold. As their investigation closes in, they discover a crime far worse than killing the Secretary-General of the United Nations.​ ​World Premiere

 

Security

Official Secrets​​” /​ ​U​nited States, United Kingdom (Director: Gavin Hood, Screenwriters: Sara Bernstein, Gregory Bernstein, Gavin Hood, Producers: Ged Doherty, Elizabeth Fowler, Melissa Shiyu Zuo) ​— ​The true story of British Intelligence whistleblower Katharine Gun, who prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion leaked a top-secret NSA memo exposing a joint US-UK illegal spying operation against members of the UN Security Council. The memo proposed blackmailing member states into voting for war.​ ​Cast: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Ralph Feinnes, Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans. World Premiere

The Report​”​ / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns, Producers: Steven Soderbergh, Jennifer Fox, Scott Z. Burns, Danny Gabai, Eddy Moretti ) — The story of Daniel Jones, lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral and ineffective. With the truth at stake, Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden. ​Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall. World Premiere

The Great Hack​”​ / U.S.A. (Directors: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim, Screenwriters: Karim Amer, Erin Barnett, Pedro Kos, Producers: Karim Amer, Geralyn Dreyfous, Judy Korin) — ​Data, arguably the world’s most valuable asset, is being weaponized to wage cultural and political wars. The dark world of data exploitation is uncovered through the unpredictable personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data story.​ ​World Premiere

Monos​​” / Colombia, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Uruguay (Director: Alejandro Landes, Screenwriters: Alejandro Landes, Alexis Dos Santos, Producers: Alejandro Landes, Fernando Epstein, Santiago Zapata, Cristina Landes) — On a faraway mountaintop, eight kids with guns watch over a hostage and a conscripted milk cow. ​Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Moisés Arias, Sofia Buenaventura, Deibi Rueda, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón. World Premiere

Midnight Traveler​”​ / U.S.A., Qatar, United Kingdom, Canada (Director: Hassan Fazili, Screenwriter: Emelie Mahdavian, Producers: Emelie Mahdavian, Su Kim) ​— ​When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing their uncertain journey, Fazili shows firsthand the dangers facing refugees seeking asylum and the love shared between a family on the run. ​World Premiere

The Infiltrators​​” / U.S.A. (Directors: Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra, Screenwriters: Alex Rivera, Aldo Velasco, Producers: Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera, Darren Dean) — ​A rag-tag group of undocumented youth – Dreamers – deliberately get detained by Border Patrol in order to infiltrate a shadowy, for-profit detention center. ​Cast: Maynor Alvarado, Manuel Uriza, Chelsea Rendon, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Vik Sahay. World Premiere

Media

“Mike Wallace Is Here​”​ /​​ U.S.A. (Director: Avi Belkin, Producers: Rafael Marmor, John Battsek, Peggy Drexler, Avi Belkin, Christopher Leggett) ​— ​For over half a century, 60 Minutes’ fearsome newsman Mike Wallace went head-to-head with the world’s most influential figures. Relying exclusively on archival footage, the film interrogates the interrogator, tracking Mike’s storied career and troubled personal life while unpacking how broadcast journalism evolved to today’s precarious tipping point.​ ​World Premiere

Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins​​” / U.S.A. (Director: Janice Engel, Screenwriters: Janice Engel, Monique ​Zavistovski​, Producers: James Egan, Janice Engel, Carlisle Vandervoort) — Molly Ivins was six feet of flame-haired Texas trouble, a prescient political journalist, best-selling author and Bill of Rights warrior. She took no prisoners, leaving both sides of the aisle laughing and craving more of her razor-sharp wit. It’s time to Raise Hell like Molly! ​World Premiere

 

Culture

Words from a Bear” /​​ U.S.A.​ (​ Director: Jeffrey Palmer, Producer: Jeffrey Palmer) — A visual journey into the mind and soul of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Navarro Scott Momaday, relating each written line to his unique Native American experience representing ancestry, place, and oral history.​ World Premiere

“One Child Nation​​” / China, U.S.A. (Directors: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Producers: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christoph Jörg, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn) ​—​ After becoming a mother, a filmmaker uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy and the generations of parents and children forever shaped by this social experiment. ​World Premiere

TIGERLAND”​ / U.S.A. (Director: Ross Kauffman, Producers: Fisher Stevens, Xan Parker, Zara Duffy) ​— ​50 years ago, a young forest officer in India rallied the world to save tigers from extinction. Today, the creed is carried on in Far East Russia by the guardians of the last Siberian tigers, who risk everything to save the species. ​World Premiere

Shooting the Mafia​​” / Ireland (Director: Kim Longinotto, Producer: Niamh Fagan) ​— ​Sicilian Letizia Battaglia began a lifelong battle with the Mafia when she first pointed her camera at a brutally slain victim. Documenting the Cosa Nostra’s barbaric rule, she bore unflinching witness to their crimes. Her photographs, art, and bravery helped to bring an end to a shocking reign of slaughter. ​World Premiere

MEMORY – The Origins of Alien​​” / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre O. Philippe, Screenwriter: Alexandre O. Philippe, Producer: Kerry Deignan Roy) — The untold origin story behind Ridley Scott’s ​Alien​ – rooted in Greek and Egyptian mythologies, underground comics, the art of Francis Bacon, and the dark visions of Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger. A contemplation on the symbiotic collaborative process of moviemaking, the power of myth, and our collective unconscious. ​World Premiere

“Abe​​” / Brazil (Director: Fernando Grostein Andrade, Screenwriters: Lameece Issaq, Jacob Kader, Producers: Carlos Eduardo Ciampolini, Noberto Pinheiro Jr., Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane) — The Israeli-Jewish side of his family calls him Avram. The Palestinian-Muslim side Ibrahim. His first-generation American agnostic lawyer parents call him Abraham. But the 12-year-old kid from Brooklyn who loves food and cooking, prefers, well, Abe. Just Abe. ​Cast: Noah Schnapp, Seu Jorge Mário da Silva, Mark Margolis, Dagmara Dominczyk, Arian Moayed, Tom Mardirosian. World Premiere

 

Politics

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?​”​ / U.S.A. (Director: Matt Tyrnauer, Producers: Matt Tyrnauer , Corey Reeser, Marie Brenner, Andrea Lewis) — Roy Cohn personified the dark arts of American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues – from Joseph McCarthy to his final project, Donald J. Trump. This thriller-like exposé connects the dots, revealing how a deeply troubled master manipulator shaped our current American nightmare. World Premiere

Dolce Fine Giornata​”​ / Poland (Director: Jacek Borcuch, Screenwriters: Jacek Borcuch, Szczepan Twardoch, Producer: Marta Habior) — In Tuscany, Maria’s stable family life begins to erode as her relationship with a young immigrant develops against a backdrop of terrorism and eroding democracy. ​Cast: Krystyna Janda, Katarzyna Smutniak, Vincent Riotta, Antonio Catania, Lorenzo de Moor, Robin Renucci. World Premiere

The Edge of Democracy” /​​ Brazil(Director and screenwriter: Petra Costa, Producers: Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris, Tiago Pavan) — A cautionary tale for these times of democracy in crisis – the personal and political fuse to explore one of the most dramatic periods in Brazilian history. With unprecedented access to Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva, we witness their rise and fall and the tragically polarized nation that remains. World Premiere

Gaza” /​​ Ireland (Directors: Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell, Producers: Brendan J. Byrne, Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell, Paul Cadieux) ​— ​Gaza brings us into a unique place beyond the reach of television news reports to reveal a world rich with eloquent and resilient characters, offering us a cinematic and enriching portrait of a people attempting to lead meaningful lives against the rubble of perennial conflict. ​World Premiere

Advocate​​” / Israel, Canada, Switzerland (Directors: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe ​Bellaïche​, Producers: Philippe Bellaïche​, Rachel Leah Jones, Paul Cadieux, Joelle Bertossa) Lea Tsemel defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from non-violent demonstrators to armed militants. As a Jewish-Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for nearly 50 years, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits. ​World Premiere

“Stieg Larsson ​​– ​​The Man Who Played With Fire​​” / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Henrik Georgsson, Producers: Mattias Nohrborg, Fredrik Heinig) — A documentary about the Millennium-trilogy author Stieg Larsson and his pioneering work of fighting right wing extremists and neo-Nazis, an obsession with fatal consequences. International Premiere

Sundance Festival | Diplomacy Edition

What to see (and watch for) at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival:

The Visit | How would the UN responds to alien contact? (Sounds like a crisis committee at UPMUNC)

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Most Likely to Succeed | What the US education system needs to do to produce graduates with 21st century skills.
http://www.indiewire.com/film/most-likely-to-succeed

Best of Enemies | Wm F. Buckley v Gore Vidal in a 1968 televised rhetorical death match.
http://www.indiewire.com/film/best-of-enemies

Chuck Norris vs. Communism | Kitschy bootleg VHS tapes in Romania become a symbol of freedom.

Experimenter | The story of Stanley Milgram’s Yale experiments involving electric shocks to understand obedience to authority.

Film | Diplomacy by Volker Schlöndorff

Based on the play by Cyril Gely

One of the most anticipated films of 2014 is Volker Schlondorff’s new take on the Swedish consul’s World War II diplomacy that saved the City of Lights.  It premiered today at the 64th annual Berlin International Film Festival:

On Tuesday, another World War II-era film, “Diplomacy,” by the German director Volker Schlöndorff, will debut here. Set in 1944, it explores how the Swedish consul general in Paris, Raoul Nordling, helped persuade the Nazi military governor of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, not to obey Hitler’s orders to destroy the historic city should it fall into enemy hands.

Mr. Schlöndorff said that today was a perfect time for Europe to re-examine the power of diplomacy.

“At a moment when Europe is questioning a lot of anti-Europe sentiment and demagogy, just imagine if we Germans had blown up Paris and destroyed it in the same way as Warsaw, if there ever would have been the possibility of a reconciliation within Europe,” he said.

via Europe’s Painful Past Colors a Film Festival – NYTimes.com.

 

 

Documenting a Pakistani Girl’s Transformation – NYTimes.com

The Malala backstory:

While my original documentary tells the story of Malala’s struggle for education in the face of the Taliban, this back story also raises

some sobering and difficult questions. Malala was a brave young girl, advocating for a better future for all girls in her country, but was it fair for her to fight so publicly in such a dangerous environment? Or was she thrust into the limelight by adults captivated by the power of a child staring down the Taliban?

Given Malala’s re-emergence on the world stage — healing from her wounds and nominated for the Nobel — I thought it was a good time to answer the five questions people often ask me about how I came to know this resilient young woman.

via Documenting a Pakistani Girl’s Transformation – NYTimes.com.

New Film on Indonesian Genocide: ‘The Act of Killing’

‘The Act of Killing’ and Indonesian Death Squads - NYTimes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A remarkable, “hard to describe” new film focuses on murders and torture committed in 1960s Indonesia, exploring “the limits of human cruelty” according to one Bill Goodykoontz in the Arizona Republic:

The events initially addressed in “The Act of Killing” are little known in the West: the slaughter of as many as a million people in Indonesia following the military’s seizure of power there in 1965. The victims were labeled Communists but included labor leaders, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals, with paramilitary groups carrying out the killings at the behest of the Indonesian Army and with the support of the United States and its allies, who worried that Indonesia, like Vietnam, would fall into Communist hands.

In Indonesia, the killings were “a kind of open secret, kept discreetly hidden so that if you wanted to, you could pretend it wasn’t happening,” said John Roosa, a scholar of Indonesian history at the University of British Columbia and the author of “Pretext for Mass Murder,” the leading book about the 1965 massacres. “So this film has become a provocation, an impetus for Indonesians to go back to the perpetrators and say, ‘Tell us exactly what happened.’ ”

Organized killings occurred all across Indonesia, the world’s fourth most-populous country, but Mr. Oppenheimer focuses on Medan, a large city in northern Sumatra. There a group of so-called “movie gangsters,” fans of John Wayne and Marlon Brando, as well as of mafia and American B-movies, did much of the killing, inspired in part by the films they loved.

What form is this film? Does it conform to or transform the traditional documentary format?

In view of all those issues, it seems pertinent to ask if “The Act of Killing” is a documentary at all. Mr. Morris, who has thought and written about the subject at considerable length, has no doubts.

 

“Of course it’s a documentary,” he said. “Documentary is not about form, a set of rules that are either followed or not, it’s an investigation into the nature of the real world, into what people thought and why they thought what they thought.”

But Mr. Oppenheimer offered a more nuanced view. He distinguishes between the observational style of the film’s first half and what comes after it pivots to the re-enactments.

“I think it almost stops being a documentary altogether,” he said. “It becomes a kind of hallucinatory aria, a kind of fever dream.” At that point, he added, the film “transcends documentary” and becomes a strange hybrid creation.

 

via ‘The Act of Killing’ and Indonesian Death Squads – NYTimes.com.

Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Reveals the Game of Politics

The new film warrants the undulated praise critics are offering it–portraying the rumble of political glad-handing, parliamentary procedure used for a national good, and a political back rooms, cynicism, and deal-brokering to show how little has changed in Congress.  It inspires by showing democratic flaws, in the way that a streak of grey or the remnants of a scar add  a degree of authenticity.  When they count the votes at the near ultimate scene, you’ll be writing them down too.

And the genius of “Lincoln,” finally, lies in its vision of politics as a noble, sometimes clumsy dialectic of the exalted and the mundane. Our habit of argument, someone said recently, is a mark of our liberty, and Mr. Kushner, whose love of passionate, exhaustive disputation is unmatched in the modern theater, fills nearly every scene with wonderful, maddening talk. Mr. Spielberg’s best art often emerges in passages of wordlessness, when the images speak for themselves, and the way he composes his pictures and cuts between them endow the speeches and debates with emotional force, and remind us of what is at stake.

via ‘Lincoln,’ by Steven Spielberg, Stars Daniel Day-Lewis – NYTimes.com.

David Brooks takes it a little further, and it sounds a lot like diplomacy:

It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere. You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others — if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical.

The challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gets this point. The hero has a high moral vision, but he also has the courage to take morally hazardous action in order to make that vision a reality.

To lead his country through a war, to finagle his ideas through Congress, Lincoln feels compelled to ignore court decisions, dole out patronage, play legalistic games, deceive his supporters and accept the fact that every time he addresses one problem he ends up creating others down the road.

Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public good. This is a self-restrained movie that celebrates people who are prudent, self-disciplined, ambitious and tough enough to do that work.

via Why We Love Politics – NYTimes.com.

International Relations Theory Primer

What’s with international relations theory?  For starters, theory provides a valuable theoretical framework for understanding a discipline or field of study.  University students pay good money to become versed in theory for a reason.  Theory allows us to understand the assumptions and ideas guiding the policy and process of diplomacy–and is an essential part to understanding international relations.

This quick primer will help get you up to speed on the two major streams, realism and idealism:

And now, for my personal fave–an exploration on international relations theory in the face of frozen Nazi zombies: