The new documentary "U.N. Me" takes the world body to task for ignoring genocides, aiding despots and failing to stop theocratic regimes from developing nuclear bombs.
Many of the tales told in the film, available now in theaters and via Video on Demand services, aren't new. But co-director and star Ami Horowitz puts all the pieces together in a way the mainstream media and, more glaringly, previous directors, couldn't bother to do. Working on a small budget and little media play, Horowitz shames both his subject matter and today's artists who refuse to hold the U.N. responsible for its wide-ranging atrocities.
"U.N. Me" argues an organization which began in 1946 with the loftiest of goals is awash in bureaucracy, corruption and greed. Not only does it rarely serve its core missions of promoting peace and stopping war, it often makes matters far worse - and no one is held accountable.
Horowitz stands in for Michael Moore, a fitfully effective technique to guide us through the U.N. horror stories. The film acknowledges up front the U.N. occasionally distributes aid to impoverished countries in a purposeful way, using its ties and resources for good.
The film opens with Horowitz visiting the U.N. building in New York City to show its empty halls while several world hot spots continue to blaze. It's an inauspicious start for the film, but Horowitz is just warming up. When the film stops aping Moore's uber-personal documentary approach the results are chilling. And Horowitz occasionally uses his good humor to expose U.N. officials in a way a traditional line of questioning couldn't.
It's priceless to watch a U.N. official wonder aloud what Iran's plans would be if it acquired a nuclear weapon one moment, then see a series of press clippings where country president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declares he wants to wipe Israel off the map.
The film checks off a list of U.N. horror stories, from ignoring the thousands of dead bodies in Rwanda in the 1990s to enabling Saddam Hussein's monstrous "oil for food" scandal. Along the way we see a bureaucracy as thick as brick, officials throwing money at associates to spend at swanky beaches and watch cover ups and obfuscations that seem too fanciful to be real.
The saga of U.N. councils dedicated to eradicating terrorism and racism staffed by countries who epitomize those conditions would be laughably if it weren't all true.
The film interviews U.N. critics, former U.N. officials, investigative reporters and diplomats in a ruggedly disciplined approach that lets all sides have their say. And it's fascinating to watch U.N. officials bob and weave their way through Q&As about the body's poisonous behavior. Hearing a Sudanese representative blame a growing pile of dead citizens on "climate change" is to witness just how far countries will go to cover up their deeds.
Horowitz, whose narration is superb, is alternately affable and a little self content with his humor. But he chases his sources with an admirable intensity and refuses to appease them with softball queries. Some of the exchanges are difficult to watch.
"U.N. Me" isn’t just a scathing indictment of the world body. It’s an indie shot across the bow of the documentary film industry which has all but ignored the ongoing crisis. Where is Moore and his illustrious peers while Horowitz and company were doing the grunt work of getting "U.N. Me" made?
It's a pair of tragedies captured in one compelling documentary.