Sunday, September 23, 2012

Look On! Carte Blanche, on ICC's Bemba case

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy productions)

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has its own Public Information Officer, who deals with external media relations and liaises with external actors interested in the work of the Prosecutor. This officer is also responsible for relations with filmmakers who wish to make documentaries on the work of the Office of the Prosecutor.
Under the former Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a number of documentaries were made featuring Moreno Ocampo and the work of the Office of the Prosecutor. For example, the making of The Reckoning (2009), about which filmmaker Pamela Yates and other IntLawGrrls contributors have posted, required the crew to follow the former Prosecutor around for approximately three years. Other such documentaries that I plan to review in the course of my ongoing research on human rights and film include The Prosecutor (2011), a Peter Raymont film that focused on Moreno-Ocampo, Darfur Now (2007), and, in this post, Carte Blanche (2011).
Made by Swiss director Heidi Specogna (right), Carte Blanche is set in the locations of The Hague, the Netherlands, and Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR).
The film examines the work of the ICC and Office of the Prosecutor concerning the Jean Pierre Bemba case. Bemba has been the subject of prior IntLawGrrls posts. For nearly 2 years Bemba, the  former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and leader of the Congo Liberation Movement, has been on trial in the ICC on 8 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, alleged to have been committed in the CAR between 2002 and 2003.
Carte Blanche takes us through the confirmation hearings (under the Rome Statute of the ICC. The purpose of these hearings is to act as a filter, determining whether there is sufficient evidence for a case to go to trial at The Hague. The film also brings us to Bangui, on an ICC mission with Gloria Atiba-Davies, victims' expert, and Dr Eric Baccard, forensic pathologist. In this way, we are given a holistic snapshot of the workings of the Office of the Prosecutor. The trial stage plays a minor part in the film with the investigations forming the main focus of the film which aims to show the ground work which goes into bringing a case and prosecuting those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes. (A running blog of the trial proceedings, maintained by the Open Society Justice Initiative, is here.)
The film constantly reminds us of the human elements to the prosecutions.  The filmmakers  interview some of the witnesses and survivors of the attacks on Bangui. These voices give personal testimony to the crimes for which Bemba has been indicted with special emphasis on the rapes and other sexual violence suffered by men, women, and girls.
Aesthetically, the film features beautiful landscape shots, interspersed with black and white photographs of the victims. Water and the rain also play important roles in the beginning and end of the documentary.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

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