Planet UN, Filmed in a Parallel
Universe, Awaits Spiderman Rescue from Critics
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: Movie
NATIONS, January 21 -- In
a time before the Oil for Food scandal, in a peacekeeping mission free
rape or sexual abuse, in a Security Council not crippled by five
veto power, an hour-long film was made and premiered Wednesday at the
movie's director Romuald Sciora told the Press that there is more to
a comic strip in which "Spiderman will save the UN." The film already
surrounds the UN with a force field, which apparently did not allow any
or even much criticism in.
In three acts -- peacekeeping, development and human
rights -- the film
celebrates the UN. The UN in turn celebrated the film on Wednesday. In
afternoon, the heads of Public Information and Partnerships, Kiyo
Amir Dossal respectively, offered praise at a press conference. Inner
Press asked about rape by peacekeepers and the UN's inability to
Sciora acknowledged that this is not in the film. He said if member
states have more money, rape would be less likely to happen. But the
structural: the UN puts blue helmets on nation's soldiers, but takes on
disciplinary power over them. All the UN does, in the case of rape, is
soldier back to his country, which often does not prosecute.
UN loudly proclaims "zero tolerance."
Messrs. Akasaka and Dossal appear in the film, as do a range of UN
from Ban Ki-moon and his spokesperson Michele Montas to his senior
Won-soo and recent Middle East spokesman Ahmed Fawzi. (Fawzi on
the Press that Ban was warned not to travel in Gaza, but wouldn't say
the warning had come.)
There are UN supporters from Ted Turner to William
Luers, and two Ambassadors, Switzerland's Peter Maurer and France
Ripert. Despite this last, there appears to be no mention of the
Council's critical flaw, the veto held by the US, France, UK, Russia
These Permanent Five use the veto to put their sins, and those of their
allies, out of the reach of the. This is another reason the UN loses
credibility. But it is not mentioned in the film.
Director Sciora and UN's Akasaka, Oil for
Food, P-5 and peacekeepers' rape not shown
The film appears designed to indirectly counter
criticisms made of the
UN without mentioning them. Rwanda is mentioned, with Boutros Boutros
Ghali correctly blaming the US for wanting to avoid the word genocide,
while complaining at any focus on his unacted-on memo showing he knew
that genocide was afoot. But corruption and waste, for example, which
in the US including its Congress are synonymous with the UN, make no
in the film. To make an hour-long movie about the UN since 1994 and not
the Oil for Food scandal, or even the Iraq debate and war, undermines
project's credibility and utility.
Sciora said in French that it is a word of
"vulgarization," or popularization, designed for a boy "in
Texas" who doesn't know about the UN, to "make him see the world
differently." That so much of the film is in French, even from
interview subjects who speak perfect English, may make it a hard sell
in Texas. That it may be propaganda was not addressed.
Admittedly, there are many attacks on the UN, not
all of them fair. As
simply one Wednesday example, a New York Daily News story went out on
the wires identifying
as a UN
official the president of a non-governmental organization which
comments to the
UN, and who was found with child pornography in his bags at JFK airport.
Ironically, the UN's own Department of Public Information distributed
internally as a UN-relevant story.
Inner City Press asked
DPI chief Kiyo
Akasaka if he was aware of the "UNmeMovie.com" project, and he said
he was. (Click here for
Inner City Press' previous review.) Akasaka's review is
that he wouldn't recommend that his family see it. But Planet UN is at
equally one-sided. Where is the balanced film, that analyzes the UN's
functioning, accomplishments and failures, and calls it to live up to
The most concrete achievement
shown in the film is the UN's work on children and armed conflict,
child soldiers from Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. But now at the LRA
rampages through remotest Congo, the UN has no one nearby, only repeats
threat that the LRA's Joseph Kony will face justice. When?
The film ends
with four full screens of dense text, leading to not insubstantial
laughter in the theater. A film student interviewed by Inner City Press
called the production values "amateur" -- it did smack of some sort of
UN home movie, with uncles and aunts droning on -- and found it
significant that the UN would think this a high profile film project
that did it proud. Perhaps, then, the current UN lives in a parallel
aesthetic universe as well. To be charitable, Sciora referred to a
forthcoming book about the UN, including analysis by Noam Chomsky, who
is now a Senior Advisor to UN General Assembly President Miguel
d'Escoto Brockmann. Perhaps it will work better in text, or in 2010 in
After the film, a so-called debate was held in the
UN basement auditorium, at which four supporters of
the UN blamed all problems on the UN's lack of resources, or the
power of the "International Misery Fund," as panelist Ann-Cecile
Robert crowd pleasingly called it in French. Lewis Lapham of Harper's
telling did not know about the Millennium Development Goals, but said
the UN needs a strong and articulate voice, but no questions were
from the audience about this. Does the UN at present have such a voice?
Up in the UN's lobby Wednesday night, Inner City
Press asked Sha Zukang of the UN's Department
of Economic and Social Affairs why he was not in the movie, while the
Administrator of the UN Development Program is. I only care about
said, adding that even those the December 2008 budget debate assigned
the new development posts to regional commissions and not his
department, he is
still happy. China doesn't need the UN to do development, he said.
operates in a parallel universe. The worlds are supposed to meet at the
sometimes as in this case there is a failure to engage.
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
Reporter's mobile (and
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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