Director Ami Horowitz (above) demonstrates his appreciation for the tough work the United Nations is doing in Côte dIvoire. Horowitz juxtaposes humor with serious foreign policy questions in what he describes as docu-tainment.
Conservative filmmaker Ami Horowitz is absolutely furious about the way the United Nations has responded to genocide, terrorism and other international crises. And to effect change, he’s determined to make you laugh about it.
It’s the goal of his debut documentary, “U.N. Me,” which was released to theaters and on digital on-demand services in June.
Horowitz calls the genre “docu- tainment.” The film mixes hard-hitting foreign policy questions with physical comedy and comedic spoofs, all designed to show viewers that the United Nations has not lived up to its founding ideals.
Think filmmaker Michael Moore meets the Weekly Standard, with a little of MTV’s “Jackass” mixed in.
Take this scene, for instance: While investigating misconduct among peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire, Horowitz barges up to U.N. headquarters in the country, demanding to speak with Abou Moussa, who led the mission at the time. Denied entrance to the facility, Horowitz starts to walk away, then turns and does a running dive into a U.N. guard and the gate behind him.
Or this one: To emphasize what he describes as a lack of discipline within U.N. peacekeeping forces, Horowitz created a “Peacekeepers Gone Wild” skit — a parody of the popular and sexually explicit “Girls Gone Wild” series. After the skit, the film cuts to a segment about sexual assault and exploitation within the peacekeeping ranks.
“It’s a very fine line between humor and pathos. And juxtaposing horrific stuff with funny stuff heightens both,” he said in a recent interview.
Horowitz said the idea for the film came as an “epiphany” while he was sitting in his Upper West Side apartment on a Saturday night, watching Moore’s 2002 film, “Bowling for Columbine.”
“I was drifting off. I can’t tell you why, but I was sitting on the couch, thinking about Rwanda,” he said. “This wasn’t like other genocides. This happened when I was sentient.”
He thought, “Whose job was it to stop this? It’s the U.N.’s.”
Horowitz said he felt “infuriated,” “small” and compelled to act. And then he looked over at his TV and found inspiration from an unusual source (for a conservative, anyway): “Whatever you think of Michael Moore, you can’t ignore what he’s saying,” Horowitz said.
Within weeks, he had quit his job as an investment banker and set out to make his first documentary film.
It was a rare call to action. But for Horowitz, there was even more at stake. He saw a need for conservative voices in an entertainment-based genre dominated by liberal commentators.