Published May 04, 2009Chances are you never head of Sergio Vieira de Mello but after seeing this moving film you'll want to learn more. Sergio was a Brazilian diplomat who began his political life hurling rocks at the police during the May 1968 demonstrations in Paris. After graduating, he channelled his ideals by helping others at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He aided the poor and displaced in Bangladesh, walked through minefields in Cambodia to talk directly with the murderous Khmer Rouge and guided East Timor to independence from Indonesia.
Suave and selfless, Sergio rose through the ranks of the UN to become its High Commissioner for Human Rights just as then U.S. President Bush ignored the UN and invaded Iraq. Ironically, Sergio wound up in Baghdad to help rebuild that country, even though he opposed the U.S. invasion. He had mixed feelings accepting this assignment, given the rocky relationship with the U.S., but accepted out of duty. It would've been his last assignment before marrying his new wife and building a family in his native Brazil.
Greg Barker's film cuts back and forth from Sergio's biography and the bombing of the UN Building in Baghdad's Green Zone in August 2003. The biographical portion relies on interviews with friends, his fiancée and associates who praise Sergio's charisma, passion and mediation skills. They also lay bare his personal infidelities due to his natural charm and movie star good looks. However, it's curious that so little of his family are shown on camera.
Great pains are taken to reconstruct the fateful bombing of 2003 by including interviews with several rescue workers and survivors. They discuss in agonizing detail the struggle to rescue victims beneath blocks of concrete and rubble without so much as a shovel to dig them out. Their lack of resources and preparation are an indictment of George W. Bush's war.
It's impossible not to admire Sergio Vieira de Mello, nor feel moved by his fate after seeing Sergio. (Chasing the Flame)