Political Film Review #338

Another installment in the capers of Andy Bichlbaum and Michael Bonnano, who codirect The Yes Men Fix the World, tells lies that should be true and upsets the elites as usual. First, they set up a website for Dow Chemical Company and await an invitation to speak. The invitation comes, so a TV interview is the platform to make a false announcement—that Dow Chemical Company will finally compensate victims of the Bhopal chemical plant disaster of 1985. Next, posing as a U.S. government official at a New Orleans conference, the announcement is made that the federal government will reopen all public housing. They have fun presenting a “SurvivaBall” as a Halliburton invention and passing out candles on behalf of ExxonMobil that are supposedly made from dead humans. And finally, they publish a bogus edition of the New York Times with the headline “Iraq War Ends” and similar stories of what might be the case if only the apathetic public demanded that politicians listen to them rather than to those who fund their election campaigns. The Political Film Society has nominated The Yes Men Fix the World for best film exposé of 2009. They don’t fix the world, but those awaiting justice in India, New Orleans, and New York very much enjoy their hoaxes, but not everyone in Obama-loving Hollywood. Unlike The Yes Men (2003), no major film studio distributes their latest film. MH

Heinous acts were committed in the Bosnian Civil War, so the UN Security Council set up a special war crimes tribunal to bring the major perpetrators to justice. The procedure was for a prosecutor’s office to compile information about persons to be tried from documents and eye-witness testimony, followed by indictments. Then suspects were arrested and detained, pending trials with defense counsels. Most of those arrested were Bosnian Serbs. Simultaneously, political developments proceeded, in particular Bosnia’s application to become a member of the European Union that was complicated because Republik Srpska remained part of the Bosnian state. Bottled up for as many as fifteen years were the memories and personal tragedies of the victims, some of whom would be called upon to testify. Storm, directed by Hans-Christian Schmid, attempts to portray the many levels of authority and deep emotions and interests involved, focusing on Hannah Maynard (played by Kerry Fox), a prosecutor seeking to convict one of the final accused persons–Goran Duric (played by Drazen Kühn), a Bosnian Serb. When Alen Hajdarevic (played by Kresimir Mikic) testifies, however, he pretends to be a witness to an event, but Duric’s attorney proves the statement to be a lie, as his evidence is heresay. Hannah is then provoked to anger, and Alen commits suicide. In an attempt to improve her office’s public relations and locate the eyewitness, Hannah goes to Alen’s wake in Bosnia, and runs into Mira Arendt (played by Anamaria Marinca), who has returned home from Germany. Hannah soon realizes that Mira is the one whose testimony can surely convict Duric. After many efforts in pursuit of her testimony, Mira agrees but also confirms Hannah’s suspicions that Duric was responsible for a mass rape of Bosnian Muslim women. The politics of the trial intervene, pretrial negotiations lead to a deal to expedite the trial, and the emotions of Hannah (who wants justice and eschews politics) and Mira (whose marriage, mental health, and personal security are in jeopardy) are brushed aside. The outcome is as bittersweet as the texture of the film is rough hewned. Although fictional, the film is an incredible window into the ambiguity of trying war criminals after a precarious peace settlement compared with Nuremberg, where an enemy had been defeated. The Political Film Society has nominated Storm for best film exposé of 2009 as well as best 2009 film on human rights for exposing war crimes. MH