Saturday, 16 January 2021

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United Nations Cinema: To End A War

On 26th June, United Nations Cinema screened ‘To End A War’ in partnership with LSE IDEAS and the Colombian Embassy. The film explores what it takes for a nation of 50 million to move from from war and hatred to peace and forgiveness. The 52-year fight between the Colombian Government and the Marxist guerilla FARC-EP was the longest running civil war in Latin America. Since September 2012, the Government and FARC have held Peace Talks behind closed doors on neutral ground in Havana, Cuba. This is an intimate observational documentary that offers unprecedented access to both political leaders, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Chief Commander Timochenko, during this profound moment in Colombia’s history. 

The screening was followed by a discussion with Marc Silver (film director); Lord John Thomas Alderdice (former leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland); Annick Hiensch (Political Affairs Officer, UNLOPS); moderated by Dr. Mary Martin (Director of the UN Business and Human Security Initiative at LSE IDEAS).


The discussion began with Marc Silver explaining how he became involved in the project and certain decisions he made in filming: “I was invited by some Colombian producers as I had no previous knowledge about Colombia and no bias. There are multiple layers we wanted to get across to the audience. We had to tell both sides of the political story, as well as the story of the millions of Colombians affected by it. For example, by portraying the process of demining, it felt like the land, the soil, contained hundreds of stories that we would never have been able to portay in this film.” Reflecting on how he saw the film two years on, he added: “Watching the film now, I realise how relevant it is. Brexit happened first, then this happened, then Trump got into power. And I think it says something about current populist movements, peace more generally, and how to live in harmony.”


Annick Hiensch, on behalf of UNLOPS, commended the people and Government of Colombia on their recent peaceful and democratic elections. She then expanded on the role of the UN in facilitating a process of ‘irreversible peace’ through their involvement in FARC’s disarmament: “Of course, there are some that want traditional justice, but it is more important to think of long-term stability. An important part of our current work is to reintegrate the FARC into civilian life.” She also emphasized that a big part of the current UN Mission in Colombia is making sure women and girls are also included in the peace process: ‘We have 41 gender focal points in this Mission.”


Lord Alderdice brought his experience of the Northern Ireland peace talks to the discussion and the role that film and culture have to play in ensuring long term peace: “This film portrays the peace process, warts and all. And film is such a powerful medium. You can make constitutional changes, socio-economic development - as we did in Ireland – but what is important is that the attitudes need to change. You are dealing with groups of people with historic differences. The fragility of peace comes from groups of people who feel unheard and unable to use peaceful democratic means to voice their concerns, so they fall back to violence.”

panel discussion audience question two

Rounding up the discussion by focusing on the present, Lord Alderdice said: “Ten years ago, political leaders saw themselves as statesmen when they were resolving conflict; now, they see themselves as statesmen when they are conducting conflict. This is one of the few peace processes anywhere in the world which is going somewere, so we must support those who are trying to make it work.”


  • To watch the trailer, click here.
  • For more information about the film, click here.
  • To download the handout, click here.
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