Dziga Vertov, one of the world’s first and finest documentarians, defined the goal of documentary film as showing “life as it is.” Ami Horowitz’s U.N. Me accomplishes this and more — it is a detailed exposé of the failures of the United Nations. This film could have sunk into a dreary, depressing recital of the various horrors perpetrated under the U.N.’s watch (Darfur, Rwandan genocide, etc.), but Ami Horowitz skillfully weaves a narrative that strikes a careful balance between humor and information.
Horowitz is not your typical documentary filmmaker, and his regular, unpretentious charm sets the tone of his film. He began his life as a banker, until one night he had an epiphany. He was drifting off to sleep while watching Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine when he suddenly realized that this was the medium for him. The result was U.N. Me.
But what is U.N. Me? According to Horowitz, it’s “a love letter” to the United Nations, albeit a love letter with “constructive criticism.” But if U.N. Me is a love letter, then it’s the letter you write to a significant other threatening a break-up. You want the relationship to work, but there have to be some major changes. The movie recounts several of the major failings of the United Nations over its history: the sexual abuses and massacres committed by U.N. peacekeepers, the failure to stop Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, the U.N.’s inability to curb terrorism, the Oil-for-Food program, the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, and the United Nation’s failure to support human rights across the world. Not exactly the most uplifting material. But U.N. Me is more than a recitation of the United Nation’s misdeeds; instead, it delves deeper into how the culture and the structure of the U.N. led to such debacles.