This rewarding documentary explores the work of the man who, in 1944, coined the word ‘genocide’, as well as four modern day activists who continue his crusade to establish international procedures to end such horrors.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
This ambitious and rewarding documentary grapples with humanity’s history of ethnic and political exterminations – and those who struggle to establish any countervailing authority.
“Edet Belzberg’s Watchers of the Sky [tells] the astonishing and dismaying story of Raphael Lemkin, born in 1900, a Polish Jew who became obsessed as a young man with the mass slaughter of the Armenians by the Turks and coined the word genocide (which combines Latin and Greek roots) to describe that horrific event unaware that the same thing would soon happen to the Jews of Europe, including his entire family, under the Nazi regime. Lemkin was nominated more than half a dozen times for the Nobel Peace Prize, never won, and died in New York in poverty, attempting almost daily to convince the UN to formulate a world judicial system to bring to trial and punish those who commit genocide both within and outside the borders of their own countries.
The film was inspired by Samantha Power’s book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Power, along with Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; former Nuremberg Trials prosecutor, Ben Ferencz; and Emmanuel Uwurukundo, a survivor of the massacres in Rwanda who now oversees UN camps for refugees from the genocide in Sudan, are all shown in the film, continuing Lemkin’s struggle for justice.” — Amy Taubin, Film Comment