Sunday, January 31, 2010

Look on! The ICTY on film

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy films.) Finally, a dramatic film made especially for Intlawgrrls. If you care about international justice issues, and especially about gender justice, go see Storm.
This German/Dutch film tells the story of a woman prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and her attempts to bring down a war criminal. In the course of doing so, she encounters a victim of one of the rape camps set up during the conflict. Not to give the film’s plot away, suffice to say it touches on a lot of the dilemmas and issues raised by international criminal prosecutions: the difficulty of the tribunals to adequately balance the needs of victims and the demands of successful prosecution (at one point, an exasperated prosecutor exclaims “a prosecution is not therapy!”), the compromises involved in plea bargaining, the continuing power dynamics in the region, the warring desires within victims to bear witness and to start anew. And especially, the tendency of international courts to downplay rape charges, to not recognize the importance of gender-based crimes, especially when it's not expedient to do so.
The film is highly critical of the ICTY, but also sympathetic to the good intentions of the prosecutors. It could perhaps have spent a bit more time establishing the importance of prosecuting the former warlords before digging into the critique of the Tribunal’s actions. But given the usual simplistic narratives of courtroom dramas, the film does an excellent job raising the difficulties and complexities of making justice happen.

No comments: