Secretary-General Invites Whistleblower to Screen at U.N. Headquarters

forecast_whistleblower.jpgIt might have taken nearly a year, but United Nations leadership is finally aligning itself with The Whistleblower, the new film based on the experience of a peacekeeper who witnessed U.N. complicity in sex-trafficking in Bosnia in the late '90s/early '00s. And while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might not yet have clambered aboard the film's Rachel Weisz awards-season bandwagon, he's definitely paving its road ahead with an invitation for the film to screen at U.N. headquarters in New York.

According to a report on Foreign Policy's U.N. blog Turtle Bay, Ban sent a letter to filmmaker Larysa Kondracki expressing his appreciation for her having sent him the movie and his remorse at the dark episode of U.N. history it exposes -- as well as offering a goodwill gesture to hopefully move awareness in the right direction:

"Last week, I saw the film with my senior advisors," Ban wrote in a letter to Kondracki. "I was pained by what I saw. I was also saddened by the involvement of the international community, particularly of the United Nations, in the abuses connected with the trafficking of women and their use as sex slaves, as highlighted in the movie." [...]

Ban used the letter to outline steps the United Nations has taken in recent years to address human trafficking, including the implementation of a "zero tolerance" program and the creation of a conduct and discipline office within the department of peacekeeping. "But I recognize, rules and measures alone are insufficient. The culture must change. I am determined to lead by example. At the United Nations we shall recommit to the fundamental tenets of international public service," he wrote. "I want to assure you that we shall embrace the challenge your film places before the United Nations....The vulnerable women whose condition your film showcases will not be forgotten. Thank you for raising this important issue with such passion."

On the one hand, Ban kind of says too much: The peacekeepers seen aiding, abetting and even participating in sex-trafficking in The Whistleblower are, by and large, hired by private contractors and not by the U.N. itself. On the other, the impenetrable, infuriating bureaucracy of the U.N.'s Eastern European operation is shown to be just shy of totally corrupt in its dealings with contractors and title character Kathryn Bolkovac herself (played by Weisz). In other words, Ban can't swiftly effect change where the change is needed most (Congo, anybody?), but can recognize that the opportunity to pledge change looks great on paper. Thanks, Hollywood.

But wait, Ban writes -- there's more:

I welcome your suggestion that The Whistleblower be screened especially for United Nations senior staff. I propose to go further. I have asked that a special screening be arranged at United Nations Headquarters not only for staff but also for Member States, with the full support of the President of the General Assembly. As suggested by you, after the screening, we shall have a panel discussion as the starting point for a frank and honest discussion of the issues the film raises. I hope you will be able join in this engagement.

Damn. Now that's results! And such good timing, too, what with The Whistleblower expanding into additional cities this week. (The film originally premiered last September in Toronto.) There's hardly any guarantee that a U.N. audience will move the needle for a film culturally or socially (just ask Harvey Weinstein), but exposure can't hurt the cause. Or rather, it can't hurt the causes -- not Kondracki's, not distributor Samuel Goldwyn's, not the United Nations', and most definitely not Weisz's. February, here we come!


Ban confronts a sordid chapter in U.N.'s history [Turtle Bay]