Hot Docs 2014 Review: Watchers of the Sky
Watchers of the Sky has a most fascinating and heartbreaking framework. Naturally, as a documentary that focuses on genocide around the world and the often fruitless campaign by a select few crusaders to erect institutional change, there are going to be some more difficult moments.
However, the film opens with and comes back these moments of almost childlike wonder and quixotic passion. Like words on a notepad recited by a hopeless romantic, the writings and beliefs of Raphael Lemkin are scrawled across the screen and inform the gripping saga.
Lemkin is charged with coining the phrase ‘genocide,’ working tirelessly to lobby the United Nations to recognize the atrocity as a global crime. Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent who lost dozens of family members during the Holocaust, died in 1959, but his campaign has inspired many others.
Directed by Edet Belzberg and inspired by Samantha Power’s book A Problem From Hell, Lemkin’s story is the main thread while a quartet of others, including Power, U.S. ambassador the U.N., are catalogued in their respective campaigns.
We’ve an Argentinine lawyer; Benjamin Ferencz, another legal prosecutor; Emmanuel Uwurukundo, a UN refugee officer whose personal experiences on the ground (as opposed to in the court) are gut-wrenching.
They’re compelling parallels assembled in deft fashion, with each person accepting their own limitations and that of the Body Politic in different ways. This exacting account unearths decades of stagnation at the U.N., unaccounted for atrocities, and impels the viewer to forgo rhetoric and find solutions.