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)


Most Likely to Succeed | What the US education system needs to do to produce graduates with 21st century skills.

Best of Enemies | Wm F. Buckley v Gore Vidal in a 1968 televised rhetorical death match.

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 –



Documenting a Pakistani Girl’s Transformation –

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 –

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

‘The Act of Killing’ and Indonesian Death Squads -







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 –

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 –

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 –

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:

Meet the Superhumans

A compelling film short on the August 2012 international Paralympics–with a Public Enemy soundtrack to boot:

Halfway through the clip, there’s a jarring cut to a bomb exploding in a war zone. Then there’s a pregnant mother at the hospital, awaiting word of her unborn child’s condition. That’s followed by a road accident that sends a car flipping on the highway. A second later, we’re back in the gym, where a legless man is doing pull-ups. Then we see a man—presumably the victim of that horrific car wreck—next to his crumpled vehicle.

Paralympics video: This trailer for the Paralympic Games is the most amazing Olympic video you’ll ever see