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WATCHERS OF THE SKY (#HotDocs14 Review)


Directed by Edet Berlzberg

In Edet Belzberg’s award-winning film, WATCHERS OF THE SKY (Special Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival), the life of human rights activist, Raphael Lemkin, is examined along with modern tales of ethnic cleansing. Lemkin is known for having coined the term “genocide”, but most do not know him past this point. Though Lemkin himself escaped, he lost 49 relatives during the Holocaust. He presented himself at the Nuremberg Trial, and later at the newly formed United Nations, fighting for human rights and the end of genocide. Though he was a greatly influential figure and was nominated for several Nobel Peace Prizes, only seven people attended his funeral in 1959.

HotDocs Watchers of the Sky 3

Along with Lemkin’s story, Belzberg presents witnesses of genocides, including those in Darfur and Rwanda. Leading the film is the UN’s U.S. ambassador, Samantha Power. Power narrates the film describing Lemkin’s life story and reads passages from his book.

WATCHERS OF THE SKY also won an editing award at Sundance for its beautiful, watercolour-animated sequences. Despite how striking these sequences are, they don’t add much to the film, except as a way to break up the film’s very heavy subject matter. This timely film showcases the life of a very significant figure, who has been long forgotten since his death. It serves as a strong memorial for Lemkin and his life’s work. While it may be a little too academic at times, it is a very important reminder as to why we should not sit around while genocide continues to happen across the world.

3.5 sheep

#HotDocs14 Screenings

04.29, 7:00 PM, Hart House Theatre

04.30, 12:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

05.03, 6:30 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre

Click here for tickets.

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