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article imageReview: ‘Watchers of the Sky’ argues action over apathy Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 17, 2014 in Entertainment
The documentary, ‘Watchers of the Sky,’ examines the history of genocide and the continued efforts of a few individuals to end the cycle of violence.
Genocide” is a word most people are afraid to utter because it carries with it certain political and social responsibilities. While most nations were quick to say, "Never again" after World War II, they are far more hesitant to take the steps required to stop an extermination in progress. The title, Watchers of the Sky, is taken from a touching story shared by one of the documentary's key subjects at the end of the film, which movingly puts the whole struggle into context.
The film follows the efforts of select advocates attempting to convince the international community to stand up against the systematic slaughter of entire populations. Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” after witnessing the human destruction of the Nazi occupation and determining that in his capacity as a lawyer he must do everything in his power to prevent history from once again repeating itself. He petitioned every member of the United Nations to make genocide against the law in the international community. The next hurdle was to make it illegal during peace time so such acts carried out within one's own borders would still be punishable by law.
Lemkin’s passionate writing and struggle for global recognition of this offense is told alongside the efforts of four other notable individuals: Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations; Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor with the International Criminal Court; Benjamin Ferencz, Nuremberg prosecutor; and Emmanuel Uwurukundo, UN refugee officer. Each inspired by Lemkin’s work, they continue to labour to realize his goal and put an end to the systemic elimination of a people.
This is a comprehensive examination of the history of genocide in a historical and political context. The helplessness of those who want to help the most is consistently highlighted by the road blocks they encounter when seeking support. To ground the story in a contemporary context, it is framed around the violence in Darfur and the resulting refugee camps along Sudan's border. Uwurukundo, the camp's director, is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, which acts as another reminder of the frequency of these atrocities. The idea is that perpetrators should be tried for their crimes in a court of law. But the reluctance of the international community to provide the resources for such a recourse means citizens feel forced to take up arms and prevent their own extinction. The advocates in this film hope that one day they won't have to.
Director: Edet Belzberg
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