Sundance films shine spotlight on global struggles

Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:53pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - A charismatic U.N. diplomat and a determined international prosecutor were profiled at the Sundance Film Festival this week in films highlighting their struggles for justice and nation building.

"Sergio" tells of U.N. official Sergio Vieira de Mello, who helped create an independent East Timor before he was killed in Iraq. "The Reckoning" follows International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and his team as they fight to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Both films, which are in the U.S. documentary competition of the independent film festival, also show their protagonists fighting international bureaucracy.

"The best advocates for human rights have to be congenital optimists," said Pamela Yates, who directed "The Reckoning."

"They have to be willing to take the blows and get up the next day to go to work -- (Moreno-Ocampo) is definitely one of those people."

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002 and Moreno-Ocampo was elected chief prosecutor the following year. The court now has 108 member states.

"I thought, isn't it amazing that we have an International Criminal Court that can try a sitting head of state for genocide," Yates said in an interview. "That's the extreme, but actually in the course of making the film the extreme came to pass."

In July 2008 the court indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing his state apparatus of killing at least 35,000 people in the Darfur region and being responsible for the deaths of another 100,000 through hunger and disease.   Continued...

<p>People gather under a television monitor at the United Nations in New York to watch news reports about the bombing of United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, August 19, 2003. REUTERS/Peter Morgan</p>