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The Independent Critic

Angelina Jolie, Benjamin Ferencz, Karim Khan, Joanna Frivet
Michele Gentile, Marcus Vetter
103 Mins.

 Movie Review: War and Justice 
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"The biggest war crime of all is war itself." - Benjamin Ferencz

Fresh off its world premiere at the Munich International Film Festival, War and Justice brings vividly to life the 25-year history of the International Criminal Court and its efforts to supplant war with justice. Winner of the Öngören Prize at the Nuremberg Film Festival, War and Justice is both intensely engaging and immensely intimate as co-directors Marcus Vetter and Michele Gentile plant us into a world where war itself is a crime and the ICC's attempts to prevent the world's most severe crimes are often interrupted by global politics and the refusal of the world's biggest and most powerful nations, the United States included, to submit to the idea of replacing war with international law. 

The ICC began in 1998, 120 nations deciding to take the lessons from the Nuremberg legacy and to create an institution designed to prevent and punish the most serious crimes against the international community: crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and the mother of allcrimes: Wars of aggression.

War and Justice is both a poweful historical document and remarkable in its narrative storytelling. The presence of Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz is impossibly powerful and Luis Moreno Ocampo, the ICC's first chief prosector, is engaging both emotionally and intellectually. As the torch passes from Ocampo to current chief prosecutor Karim Khan, the film's geopolitical complexity amplifies with current events in Ukraine and Gaza increasing the urgent calls for legal intervention by the ICC. 

While the presence of longtime activist Angelina Jolie should feel extraneous, it doesn't. If anything, it humanizes the ICC's mission and infuses the often difficult to understand political proceedings with a humanitarianism that ensures we realize this is all very much about the human beings behind the tragedies. Indeed, perhaps the film's most engaging segments are those involving war crimes against children that are seemingly pursued with an even more intensified passion. 

Gentile and Vetter capture the difficulty faced by the ICC given the obvious resistance from nations like the United States, Russia, and China - all three have failed to ratify the Rome Statute that empowered the ICC. The resistance negatively impacts the ICC's reach and is placed front-and-center here in a documentary that advocates for the power of  justice and international law to preempt wars and to directly intervene in the globe's biggest crimes. 

War and Justice lacks the histrionics one may be expecting. Instead, Gentile and Vetter clearly trust the inherent power of their material to leave a lasting impact. That trust is most warranted. 

Destined itself to have a remarkable global impact, War and Justice is early in what is guaranteed to be a successful indie fest run followed by distribution that will hopefully have it seen far and wide. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic