Forget Superman and Ironman. Give me the real people in Edet Belzberg’s documentary, “Watchers of the Sky.” Belzberg deftly examines four humanitarians who have followed in the footsteps of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the word “genocide.” It’s hard to believe, but before Lemkin, there had been little thought given to forcing those who killed millions to pay for their crimes.
The film was inspired by the Pulitzer Price-winning book, “A Problem From Hell,” by Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and member of President Obama’s Cabinet. The film moves from Lemkin’s history to the four central figures and uses animation, live interviews, and archival footage.
Ben Ferencz is one of those profiled. He served in WWII and was tasked with gathering evidence against the Nazis and apprehending them. At the age of 27, he was Chief Prosecutor for the U.S. in The Einsatzgruppen Case, which was dubbed “the biggest murder trial in history” with 22 defendants charged with murdering more than a million people. Today, in his 90’s, he continues to fight for U.N. reform.
Luis Moreno Ocampo led investigations against senior Argentine Army commanders and three former heads of state in 1984, which led to sentencing of five of the defendants for mass murder. Emmanuel Uwurukundo lost his entire family in the genocide in Rwanda and now runs three refugee camps in Chad. Power narrates some of the film and covered the war and genocide in Yugoslavia as a journalist. She was also Founding Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.
Since mass killings continue despite the many times people have said “never again” since the Holocaust, the film is sobering. But “Watchers of the Sky” is, more than anything, an inspiring look at the heroic activists who will never give up hope that we can end the unimaginable cruelty of genocide.