International Law Movies

by Kristen Boon

After attending a great panel at ESIL in 2014 on International Law and Film, I’ve been thinking about how to integrate film into my public international law class. I’ve compiled a list of international law films (with help from colleagues and fellow bloggers) that make for excellent viewing.  In a subsequent post, I’ll offer some thoughts about teaching international law through film.

Dramatizations

Zero Dark Thirty (Bin Laden)

Team America (Terrorism, North Korea and WMDs) (not on the serious side of international law movies!)

The Interpreter (filmed in the UN)

Argo (Iran Hostage Crisis)

The Reader (War Crimes Trial in Germany)

Battle of Algiers (Algerian War of Independence)

Hotel Rwanda (Genocide in Rwanda)

Woman in Gold (Nazi Art Theft, FSIA)

The Whistleblower (Post-War Bosnia)

Captain Phillips (Piracy)

Blood Diamond (Conflict Diamonds)

Lord of War (Arms Dealing)

War Witch (Child Soldiers)

Star Wars (Trade Dispute prompts Armed Conflict in Outer Space) J

Bridge of Spies (Cold War)

The Constant Gardener (Diplomacy, Pharmaceuticals, British High Commission in Kenya)

Judgment at Nuremberg (Nuremberg Trials)

Documentaries

The Reckoning (The ICC)

Last Station before Hell (UN peacekeeping)

Sons of the Clouds:  The Lost Colony (Western Sahara)

The Gatekeepers (Shin Bet)

Taxi to the Darkside (Torture, Afghanistan)

All Rise (Jessup Competition)

 

An alternate list of international law films compiled by Lyonette Louis-Jacques at the University of Chicago Law Library with more foreign / older content available is here.

Do you have additional movie ideas?  Please add other titles using the comments box below.

http://opiniojuris.org/2016/02/10/international-law-movies/

21 Responses

  1. Hannah Arendt (Adolf Eichmann trial)

  2. Always a fun idea to integrate international law and movies ! Though it is mainly in French, the Université de Bruxelles has compiled a list of analysis here: http://cdi.ulb.ac.be/culture-pop-et-droit-international/

    I find that ‘the Hunger Games 3’ is a good illustration of crimes against humanity/ war crimes

  3. Hi, I don’t think Judgment at Nuremberg should be classified as a Documentary.

  4. “Darwin’s Nightmare” – Under the general theme of the Nile perch in Lake Victoria (and its negative effects on local fauna, trade and life), this documentary also explores also dwells at length on the dichotomy between European aid which is being funneled into Africa on the one hand, and the unending flow of munitions and weapons from European arms dealers on the other. Arms and munitions are often flown in on the same planes which transport the Nile perch fillets to European consumers, feeding the very conflicts which the aid was sent to remedy. (parts taken from Wikipedia) – (Documentary, SALW, African Great Lakes)

  5. ResponWhat a great idea/list. My contribution:

    ‘The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior’ (1993): Nuclear testing/international responsibility of states/settlement of disputes

    ‘Black Hawk down’ (peace keeping operations)se…

  6. Drug control:

    ‘The House I Live In’ by Eugene Jarecki
    Mary Full of Grace
    Traffic (Steven Soderberg)
    Return to Paradise (extradition, drug control, death penalty)

    So many about drugs it’s tough to list them!

    Also:

    Fail Safe (threat or use of nuclear weapons)

    Beasts of No Nation (child soldiers)

    ‘Soft Vengeance’ (Albie Sachs, apartheid)

    Lilya Forever (human trafficking)

    The Yes Men (WTO)

    ‘Merchants of Doubt’ (Climate Change, FCTC)

    ‘Thank you for smoking’ (FCTC)

    Contagion (WHO declarations of pubic heath emergency)

    The Corporation (Business and human rights)

    Not without my daughter (inter-country adoption, kidnapping by a parent, discrimination against women)

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Worst forms of child labour. And murder, hearts being removed, satanic rituals….)

  7. Thanks for the post, you could certainly, add the amazing documentary serial of the international geographic group, on the first and second world war .

    Those are amazing authentic movies, gone under or went through a very intense re- elaboration (technically) and added colors and sharpness.

    You simply reside or plunged into ( in and within ) the horror of battle fields , unbelievably qualified and authentic.

    Thanks

  8. Storm (2009), starring Kerry Fox, distributed by Film Movement. Story of an ICTY prosecutor working a Serbian war crimes case. Nice coverage of the investigatory process and attendant politics with some good courtroom footage.

  9. Great list. Two upcoming films are Eye in the Sky and A War.

    A few that spring to mind:

    The Wind that Shakes the Barley
    Death and the Maiden
    War Don Don
    Fambul Tok
    The Act of Killing
    The Fog of War

    PBS Documentaries:
    Rules of Engagement (Haditha)
    I Came to Testify
    Ghosts of Rwanda
    My Lai
    The Law In These Parts

    I’m sure that I’ll think of more.

  10. Prateek, you are right! I’ve corrected this. Thanks everyone for the terrific suggestions. Keep them coming!

  11. “Labyrinth of Lies” about the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials is incredible

  12. The Terminal (2004) by Steven Spielberg – A movie length hypothetical about the curious legal fiction that the international area of a port or airport is not legally regarded as US soil and the subsequent question of what exactly that means.

  13. The International Association of Genocide Scholars has an excellent list on their website of films. http://www.genocidescholars.org/resources/filmography

    For Rwanda, I suggest Shake Hands With the Devil. There is both a dramatized film version and a documentary, the former dealing with the time that Dallaire was in Rwanda; the latter when he returned some years later.

    Joshua Oppenheimer’s two documentaries on Indonesian violence in the 1960s are a tough watch: The Act of Killing and the Look of Silence. We have reviews of both in the current issue of Genocide Studies and Prevention http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp/

    Other docos:
    The Invisible War (sexual assault in the US military)
    Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields
    S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
    Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial

    There is also a dramatisation of Francois Bizot’s book, The Gate (called the Gate in English and Les Temps des Aveux in original French). Note that this film version does NOT accurately portray the facts as relayed by Bizot in his book. (If anyone wants more info on these discrepancies, please contact me for a full review.)

    There are many Vietnam War movies, but an under-used one is Good Morning Vietnam. I think because it is a comedy it is seen as not serious, but in fact it has a very accurate portrayal of the issues of the Vietnam War.

  14. “Thirteen Days” with Kevin Costner. It’s about the Cuban missile crisis. There’s stuff about norms of war as they’re considering a pre-emptive attack on Cuba, and some great scenes at the U.N. as the U.S. rep Adlai Stevenson confronts the Soviet Rep. And Costner actually pulls of a Massachusetts accent decently well.

  15. A bit off topic, but how about video games? One for starters (unfortunately not available in English yet): Ao no Kiseki. Treaty negotiations, cross-border police chases, (magical) weapons of mass destruction, and the legality of a unilateral declaration of independence by a condominium all play major roles.

    And of course there’s this old post from the International Committee of the Red Cross about video games and the law of armed conflict:
    https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/film/2013/09-28-ihl-video-games.htm

  16. Response…Let me put in a plug for my book Watching Human Rights: The 101 Best Film and the website I maintain with Gearoid O Cuinn WatchingHumanRights.org

    The book is divided into feature films and documentaries. The top 5 of the former are: Schindler’s List; The Lives of Others; Missing; The Official Story and The Killing Fields. The top 2 documentaries are: Darwin’s Nightmare and Nero’s Guests.

  17. 2014 “Unbroken” directed by Angelina Julie should definitely be in this list.

  18. Thanks so much for the post!

    I’m a student intern for the American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law (IHL) division, and we’ve recently created an Acvitiy Guide for students or teachers/professors who would like to host an IHL movie event.

    The Activity Guide has many of the same movie suggestions as the post, along with sample questions to help participants discuss relevant IHL rules and principles. “IHL and the Movies” can be downloaded under the Activity Guides tab here: http://www.redcross.org/humanityinwar/for-students

    I will look out for the follow-up post. In my experience, students get a lot out of film discussions.

  19. Great post and discussion. For anyone writing on the subject, check out the call for papers for a workshop on ‘ICL on/ and Film’ at LSE in Sept 2016 http://www.lse.ac.uk/internationalRelations/centresandunits/CIS/documents/Call-for-papers-International-criminal-law-19-January-2016.pdf Deadline for paper proposals is 15th March 2016.

  20. Also:
    “War Don Don” critical documentary on the Special Court for Sierra Leone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bLX0pfn7rA)

    “The Court” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJBsYl7cJAA)

  21. Mugabe and the White African. Expropriation, racism, torture, jurisdiction of regional tribunals. About the SADC Tribunal Campbell case.

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