Thursday, April 28, 2005

Interpreting "The Interpreter"

Will Hollywood rescue the UN? Posted by Hello

Partly out of curiousity, and partly because I had nothing better to do, Leila & I went to watch The Interpreter on Sunday night. I have to say I liked it more than I expected. Since I work on UN Reform issues at work, I was interested to see how the United Nations would be portrayed & it was heartening to see Hollywood to do a great job - not only does the movie emphasize the importance of the UN in the world but it talks about the importance of the International Criminal Court! Nicole Kidman & Sean Penn do a brilliant job & I have to say that Penn has earned another fan - although I'm not as bad as Leila who is now stored on my cell phone as "Mrs Sean Penn"!

When I was in New York about 4 years ago, I had $5 left on my last day & that is exactly what the student fee was for a UN tour! It is a very impressive structure & the film is beautifully shot - I strongly recommend you to watch the movie. At a time, when the popularity of the UN is low amongst many Americans and Congressmembers, I hope the movie will help people realize why the UN was created in the first place after WWII...

From the Cape Times:

In the first-ever film shot at the United Nations, 17 people get killed in a bus bombing, another is slain in the house of peace itself and a white woman tries to kill a black dictator because she thinks the international justice system is not tough enough.

But UN officials believe Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter, with Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, can do for the world body what deadpan diplomats cannot: spice it up, make it cool.

"We felt it was going to get a lot of people into the movie theatres to see things about the UN, who would not otherwise have paid much attention to this organisation," said UN spokesman Shashi Tharoor, who helped get secretary-general Kofi Annan to agree to the filming.

"The basic story of The Interpreter seems to me to showcase the values that this institution stands for," he said of the movie.

The UN had turned down Alfred Hitchcock's request to film in the delegates' lounge for the 1959 North by Northwest. Pollack, however, not only filmed the lounge, but the General Assembly, the Security Council, the carpeted corridors, the seedy back rooms and the garden

Yet, despite Kidman's character talking of the power of words over guns, guns are a large part of the fast-paced film.

Kidman plays an interpreter from a volatile fictional African country who overhears an assassination plot against her country's leader, who is about to address the General Assembly, and becomes a target herself. Penn plays a secret service agent suspicious of her claims.

There is a big bomb blast on a Brooklyn bus, slashed wrists in the Chelsea Hotel, and a killing on UN premises, not to mention ethnic cleansing and political oppression in a fictional African country.

And Kidman puts a gun to a tyrant's head shortly before the Security Council sends him to the International Criminal Court.

"I am enormously sympathetic to the UN," said Oscar-winning director Pollack. "But I know better than to try to spend $80 million to make a propaganda film. It's boring.

"Kidman's character speaks "Ku," a mock language based on Swahili and Shona, and works at the as a French-English interpreter.

"I had to make sure the text she was going to read was correct French," said chief UN interpreter Brigitte Andreassier-Pearl, who served as a consultant to Pollack.

Her scarf and watch are incorporated into Kidman's persona, and Andreassier-Pearl fielded many questions on where the interpreters eat and what they wear.

Dress, she told them, is casual. "It's not the corporate world. You don't come in jeans either." But she was more amused by the fake red-and-white UN pass Kidman wore because "it really looked like mine".

It was Andreassier-Pearl's tour of the back steps to find the "scariest place she knew" that provided the backdrop for a killing. And her tour of the staff lockers figures in another scene: "When they saw the row of lockers, they were just in awe."

And they were "very intrigued by our phone booths. They are quite antiquated", she said.

But she said she was puzzled that Kidman's character drove to work on a scooter.

"No one comes to work on a Vespa in New York," she said.