“U.N. Me” is the new scathing documentary both sarcastic in comedic tone, heavy on subject matter from first time director Ami Horowitz. I sat down with director Horowitz after a screening of “U.N. Me” to engage in a conversation with him about his new film, what he wants the audience to take away, and his future making more documentaries.
KM: First let me say, I thought [‘U.N. Me’] was going to be a conservative Michael Moore, really partisan and it wasn’t… There wasn’t too much emotion, but rather the facts…I know a lot of people in the audience who were liberal who really liked the movie.”
Ami Horowitz: “I’m really glad to hear that…because that was a real conscience effort to make it because it’s really easy to fall for that [partisan] trap. I’m a conservative, but everybody who worked on the movie, editors, writers were all liberal.”
KM: The title “U.N. Me” brings to mind the Morgan Spurlock documentary “Super Size Me.” Yet you didn’t try to work for the United Nations, for like a month or two. Why did you choose this title?”
Ami Horowitz: “My wife came up with title so if I didn’t use it I wouldn’t be married…It does speak about me trying to figure out what’s going on in the United Nations. I also think its a relationship between me and the audience like ‘you and me.’ I think it’s about the relationship between the UN and the audience. I think [the U.N.] have a responsibility with everyone in the audience. The question really becomes, “have they failed you?” Have they failed me? And I think they have. It’s a nice name because its cute but speaks to different layers of relationships with us in the UN and me as a filmmaker in the audience.”
KM: Out of all the injustices in the world, what inspired you to investigate the United Nations and to make a movie about it?
Ami Horowitz: “I don’t know what it was that triggered the thing in my head about the UN. I just started thinking about it. And the more I thought about it I was aggravated and then angry, and then infuriated for the failure of UN to live up to its ideals. I don’t know when the spark popped in my head it wouldn’t go away. I felt like I had to do something. …For better or for worse, entertainment is a way you get to people. And for better or for worse, many people under 40 get their news from the Daily Show. I love the Daily Show, It’s a great show, but is it the place to get news? No. I’ve got to play that game to make sure that I made something that had entertainment value.”
KM: In the film you venture around the United Nations office, only to not find anyone. Why were you surprised when the UN offices were empty after 5PM?
Ami Horowitz: “I was surprised. Genocide doesn’t happen just between 9 to 5 Eastern Standard Time…they should be staffed at all times. I am expecting to it be as busy as during the day. Of course not. You know we were looking to humorize the situation and that was a good way to do it. I think a lot of people were surprised to know it was empty.”
KM: “What’s the one thing you want the viewer to take away from the film?”
Ami Horowitz: “This can’t stand. You know people often see movies and they go ‘okay, that really effected me.” And then they go on to their daily lives, which is a normal thing to do. I want people to walk away saying listen, ‘Its wrong in the world that we live in today that there are people who are fleeing for their lives in terror of the night.’ Its just wrong.” We built a society that is wealthy. People are better off then they’ve ever been…even the poorest of the poor. And to have genocide going on that’s the one thing that hasn’t gotten better.”
KM: You mentioned that 25% of the United Nations budget ($8 billion) comes from America. How do you think viewers can lobby for change to pressure the UN?
Ami Horowitz: “You know, it’s all about money…And Congress controls the funding to everything. And Congress is susceptible to people calling them out and saying, ‘what are we doing?’ A couple bills coming up from both Republican and Democrats are about reform in the UN. But I think the time is right for an extra push from the outside…Letters, phone calls, and emails could work.”
KM: Will you be pursuing a career as a documentary film director and what other subject matters interest you?
Ami Horowitz: I didn’t go out with the intention of being a filmmaker. I just wanted to get this issue out. I choose filmmaking as the medium, which I thought was the best format suited to make my argument. Having said that, I’ve totally been bitten by the bug. So this is all I want to do…if I could serve an attempt at promotion, people need to see the movie for me to make another movie. Because if I don’t make another movie, my full time career will be hiding from my investors…just cut out 90 minutes of watching “Keep Up with the Kardasians” and watch this…you’ll be entertained and you’ll be informed.“U.N. Me” opens in limited release theaters and premieres on VOD on June 1st
Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding.
He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.