At 7:58pm last night, my friend Susannah emailed:
Hey. If you want to get totally depressed, lose your faith in humanity, and confirm any feelings you have that great deeds do not go unpunished, watch the HBO documentary on Sérgio Vieira de Mello.
As it happened, the film was about to start airing in exactly two minutes, and I did. She was right (have kleenex handy, I guarantee you'll cry), but bummers aside, there was an awful lot that made the film worth watching.
Sergio was a riveting, tragic, and beautifully-crafted film about the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights killed in the 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq. He is rightfully described as "half JFK, half 007," and his life, his work, and the circumstances of his death are important elements of our recent history—as are the stories of the two courageous Army reservists who tried to save him, and did successfully save the life of a man trapped in the rubble right next to him.
I urge everyone reading this blog post to catch the documentary when it re-airs this Sunday (or DVR it, or do what you gotta do, but see it). A few reviews: Boston Globe, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the one you can't miss is from John Burns at the New York Times. He was based in the Times' Baghdad bureau in 2003, and was present at the bombing in which Sergio and scores of other people were killed.
Trailer here, and embedded above. Documentary Blog has a great interview with the film's director, Greg Barker, who also directed the award-winning Ghosts of Rwanda. Indiewire has a great interview with Barker here. A snip:
What I found heartbreaking is that Sergio assumed the Bush Administration–having begged him to go Iraq–actually wanted him to draw on his 30+ years of conflict resolution, and he set about trying to end the occupation as soon as possible. Instead, he found himself accused by the growing insurgency as being a tool of the Americans…until on August 19, 2003, Sergio himself became the target.
The film is based on the Samantha Power book Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World.