21 January 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON DOCUMENTARY FILM ‘PLANET UN’

 


A new documentary spotlighting the work of the United Nations and featuring in-depth interviews with four of the world body’s Secretaries-General discussing its role as a forum for essential dialogue on the pressing challenges of the twenty-first century is set to premier this evening at the Organization’s Headquarters in New York.


Planet UN is a documentary directed by renowned French filmmaker Romauld Sciora, who told correspondents at a press conference today that the film was part of a broad creative effort to raise the profile of the United Nations by focusing on its everyday work and proving that, despite some necessary reforms, the Organization could provide a place for “common thinking and overcoming serious challenges”.


He said that the launch of the film will include the release of a new book published by Le Monde Diplomatique and Harper’s Magazine, along with a DVD.  Those creative efforts will pave the way for the release in September 2009 of a comic book published by Marvel Comics highlighting the United Nations humanitarian work, and featuring Spiderman, Iron Man and the Hulk, among other popular superheroes.  Mr. Sciora’s unique association with the United Nations had also produced four television shorts in 2006 called At the Glass Building, which included footage of former Secretaries-General reminiscing about the 60-year history of the world body.


Mr. Sciora said the new 52-minute film, book and DVD aimed to introduce the United Nations system to a world that might only know of the Organization through the work of two of its most well-known agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  Indeed, they would examine its “day-to-day work” in areas such as civil aviation and development.


“In the West, we really don’t know what the UN is doing for the population of particular countries.  In some countries, the UN is the only thing that is helping the people on a daily basis,” he said, adding that, for example, many people were completely unaware of the tremendous on-the-ground work being carried out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


Joining Mr. Sciora was the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, who said that, through the exploration of three major themes -- peacekeeping, development and human rights -- Planet UN presented a look at the United Nation as it worked to confront the challenges of this century.  He welcomed Mr. Sciora’s work as a “wonderful example of partnership between the United Nations and the creative community”, and noted that the Department of Public Information had helped provide Mr. Sciora access to, among other things, the United Nations vast media archives.


Also present was Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, who said his Office was excited about the film and hoped the “refreshing portrayal” would not only boost the Organization’s profile, but also improve its work, by opening it up to initiatives with civil society and private sector partners, especially from the world’s vast creative community.  Specifically, noting the project with Marvel Comics, which was set to be distributed to thousands of schools and universities, he said the United Nations needed to find even more creative ways to get its message out.


Mr. Sciora said that Planet UN brought together for the first time former United Nations chiefs Kofi Annan, Boutros-Boutros Ghali and Javier Perez de Cuellar, along with current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  In addition to other senior United Nations officials, it also featured academic and diplomatic dignitaries, including Noam Chomsky.  Responding to questions, he said that, while the film could not address all the areas of the Organization’s operation in great detail, it did touch on food aid delivery and human rights, and examined international justice and the work of the new Human Rights Council.


In response to questions, Mr. Akasaka said the Department of Public Information sought to expand its relationship with filmmakers, writers and others, to spotlight the important agenda of the United Nations.  He noted that, last year, the Secretary-General had travelled to the Jackson Hole Film Festival to meet film producers and screenwriters, and had invited them to examine the challenges and problems the United Nations faced.  The overall effort aimed to show “the real picture” of what Member States discussed and to find ways to ensure those discussions could receive wider and more comprehensive consideration.


The world premier of the documentary will take place at 6 p.m. this evening at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.  Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, Mr. Akasaka and the Permanent Representatives of France and Switzerland are expected to deliver opening remarks.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record