“Despite the relative insignificance to which the General Assembly has been relegated in recent years, I firmly believe that the task of presiding over this Assembly is an important one. It becomes even more significant when this post is used as an opportunity to transform the prevailing exclusionary logic of selfishness, one which has, at times, crippled the ability of this body to fulfil its mandate as enshrined in the United Nations Charter”.
Miguel d’Escoto's inaugural speech as President of the 63rd United Nations General Assembly, September 16th 2008.
What happens when a Latin American priest suspended by the Pope for his involvement in revolutionary politics becomes President of the General Assembly of the United Nations?
A year in the life of our only global parliament - an institution in deep crisis - through the eyes of Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a man whose directness and plain speaking clashes with the protocols and polished diplomatic language of this venerable, dying 66 year old institution. A man determined to wake up the “G192”- a term he coined for the UN General Assembly and its 192 nations, two-thirds developing countries - and give them a real say in a new world order.
With unique access inside the UN the film takes the viewer behind the scenes, shedding light on its opaque mechanisms and power dynamics. D’Escoto was President of the General Assembly in 2008/2009 but his story is timeless and allows us to take stock of the UN today.
By no means a newcomer to UN diplomacy, D’Escoto was for over a decade the international face of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, in which he served as foreign minister after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. A liberation theologian, Marxist and promoter of non-violence, D’Escoto took charge in the last few months of the Bush Administration, when the reputation of the UN was at an all time low.
On D’Escoto’s arrival in New York the UN building itself was falling apart, a powerful metaphor for its crumbling moral authority. Just days into his mandate the US financial markets collapsed, setting off a global economic recession that is still with us, and that seriously diminished the status of the United States as the world’s only superpower. The whole system of global governance created by the winners of the Second World War was under fire. For father Miguel it was a window of opportunity: "The future will be better," he said, "this idolatry of the market was a false god."
D’Escoto had no illusions about who pulls the strings at the UN, but believed fervently in the General Assembly’s potential as a parliament of humanity, able to give voice to the powerless, the dispossessed, the majority of the earth’s people. In his 70s, with a hearing problem, a kind of grandfather figure and unlikely prophet, he was still an idealist, a utopian, convinced that he could turn things around and set the course for the G192 to reclaim their place in determining the future of our world, our planet.
At the UN no one quite knew what was coming. On paper the President of the General Assembly is the UN’s highest official, but in practice this office had in recent years come to reflect the increasing irrelevance of the General Assembly. No one imagined this retired revolutionary would actually take the job seriously.
This is the story of his one-year battle inside the Glass House.
An Italian-Nicaraguan documentary filmmaker, Roberto Salinas is a graduate of the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” where he studied History of Theater. Roberto also attended the One Year Directing Program at the New York Film Academy.
Between 2003 and 2005 he worked as a camera operator and cinematographer for short films, commercials and feature documentaries in Italy and around the world. In 2005 he co-directed the documentary “The life and adventures of the lord of bric á brac, a brief biography of Valentino Parlato” (Cineforum Prize, Libero Bizzarri Award 2006), a passionate portrait of the Italian journalist Valentino Parlato. Subsequently he created, co-directed and shot the series of 5 feature documentaries “Close-Up” for production company Interlinea Film and Regione Lazio. The series features, among others, the documentaries: “A funny story, a brief biography of Mario Monicelli” (aired by Rai5 and Sky Arte, dvd distribution Lantana Editore) and “The long century, a brief biography of Margherita Hack” (Biografilm Festival 2006, aired by Rai 5 and Sky Arte, dvd distribution by Lantana Editore). In 2009 he co-directed the documentary “The dawn of the sixth sun, a journey in Zapatista’s Chiapas” (Arcipelago film festival, Rome 2010). In 2013 he directed photography for the documentary “No bajen los brazos - La Plata Ruby Club (Trieste Latin American Film Festival, Malvinas Award, 16th Festival de Cine de Derechos Humanos, Buenos Aires, Nacne/Rai Cinema) and he co-authored and operated camera for the documentary “Pontif-Ex” (Nacne/Rai Cinema).
He lives between Managua and Rome.