Watchers of the Sky – Film Review



April 20th, 2014:  He was a man without tomorrow and yet Raphael Lemkin dedicated his entire life in pursuit of answering one question; why is the killing of a million people a lesser crime than the killing of one individual?  In the age of the Armenian Genocide, World War I and II, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, his tireless effort to make a difference through legislation was the catalyst for change in the global arena of human rights. Watchers of the Sky chronicles the means through which one man unwavering pursuit to coin then legislate in the term we have come to equate with the mass extermination of people  . . . “GENOCIDE”. 

Through the lens of Lemkin’s experiences, we see the roots of his life’s work as he suffered deportation as a Polish Jew during WWI only to grieve the loss of his entire family in Nazi concentration camps through WWII.  Watchers of the Sky follows the protracted march of four modern day Lemkins’ as they take up the reins to fight their respective battles in keeping his legacy alive. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), who is not afraid to put his career on the line in an effort to bring war criminals to justice.  Samantha Power, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide becomes Belzberg’s foundation behind the narrative, Watchers.  Rwandan Emmanuel Uwurukundo, UN Director of Refugee Camps on the border of Chad and Western Sudan witnessed firsthand then fought against the devalued currency of human life.  And lastly, ninety-three year old Benjamin Ferencz’s chapter comes full circle. As a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, this tenacious lobbyist for peace bookends our documentary from the trials to present day.  Oscar nominated Director, Edet Belzberg  methodically captures the bureaucratic quagmires Lemkin fought through in getting the Genocide Convention passed in hopes that future Omar al-Bashirs’ and Ratko  Mladics’ are immediately held to account.

Verdict: 4.0 out of 5: Belzberg performs yeoman’s work in succinctly distilling a century of ethnic and political exterminations into an impactful 120 minutes. Framing the work of Raphael Lemkin through a haunting array of insightful animation, dreamy water-colours and stark archival footage only reinforces the cogent narrative of a man who casts aside the trappings of a normal middle class existence in favour of saving the voiceless among us.  Through the destabilizing forces of a few tyrannical men whose unquenching lust for power has the ability to destroy humanity, Lemkin became the lone voice in the fight to stop these war crimes.

The power of one can be the most powerful.

Genre: Documentary, Biography
Country: USA, Netherlands, France, Chad, Rwanda.
Release Date: 2014
Director: Edet Belzberg
Producers: Edet Belzberg, Amelia Green Dove, Kerry Propper
Premiere: Canadian
Runtime: 120 minutes
Cast: Luis Moreno Ocampo, Samantha Power, Emmanuel Uwurukundo, Benjamin Ferencz 


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