J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

U.N. Me: It’s Worse than You Think


The bad news is many United Nations officials are actively working to protect institutionalized injustice and corruption.  The good news is they all clock out at 5:00 on the dot.  Taking a page out of the Michael Moore playbook (and a few of his crew) Ami Horowitz and Matthew Groff rake the muck of Turtle Bay in U.N. Me (trailer here), a simultaneously hilarious and infuriating documentary opening this Friday in New York.

Unlike his pseudo-role model, gonzo-host Horowitz never ambushes receptionists or security guards.  A witty and seemingly guileless screen presence, he is out to confront the UN elite with the crimes committed under their watch.  Crime is indeed the right term, particularly in the first segment focusing on the sexual assaults perpetrated by so-called “UN peacekeepers.”   Traveling to the Côte d’Ivoire, the gauche Horowitz even has the temerity to ask the commander of the UN peacekeeping mission about an incident in which his forces fired on unarmed protestors.  It took a long time to snag that on-camera interview, but it sure doesn’t last long.

Horowitz and Groff revisit many of the organization’s greatest hits, like Oil for Food and the genocide in Rwanda, but each time it is clear the unofficial motto for UN should be “it’s worse than you think.”  As bad as the UN and Kofi Annan look in Roger Spottiswoode’s Shake Hands with the Devil, Horowitz and Groff make it clear then Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is even more culpable, having deliberately misled the Security Council about the situation on the ground in Rwanada and previously brokering a major arms sales to the Hutu-dominated government while still with the Egyptian Foreign Affairs ministry.

U.N. Me is packed with jaw-dropping factoids, like eighty percent of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection budget is spent on Canada, Germany, and Japan.  As for Iran, the agency’s former director general Mohamed ElBaradei tells Horowitz there is no reason to be concerned about their nuclear program.  Feel safer now?

Perhaps to avoid the temptation to dismiss the film as another salvo in the Israeli-“Palestinian” controversy, Horowitz and Groff make only passing mention of the notoriously disproportionate censure leveled at Israel and only Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy.  As a result, potential critics are forced to deal with the inconvenient realities of UN policy with respects to Darfur.  It is not pretty.  Just ask Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, who was rather rudely received by the Human Rights Council when she presented her honest findings.  Horowitz and Groff do exactly that, but they also try to follow-up with those same genocide-abetting diplomats.

The problems U.N. Me exposes are not merely anecdotal, but systemic and profound.  It is important to remember this jaw-dropping malfeasance is underwritten by our tax dollars.  Perhaps it is time to reconsider membership in an organization that makes no distinctions between free democracies and despotic regimes.   It is also clear the legacy media has been derelict in its duties covering the UN’s global scandals. 

One hopes the documentary will be screened for the current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is not directly implicated in the film, beyond clearly not displaying any urgency addressing the organization’s persistent graft and dysfunction.  It moves along at a brisk pace, so any bureaucrat ought to be able to follow it, but do not hold your breath.  Nonetheless, the dismayingly funny U.N. Me highly recommended for anyone interested in the current state of the world.  It opens this Friday (6/1) in select theaters nationwide, including the AMC Empire here in New York.

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