Kofi Annan - Center of the Storm

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Kofi Annan

David Grubin films Kofi Annan in New York; David Grubin interviews the Secretary-General (right).

David Grubin, an Emmy Award-winning writer, director, and cinematographer discusses his experiences while making KOFI ANNAN: CENTER OF THE STORM.

President Bush and Kofi Annan Q&A with Director David Grubin

KOFI ANNAN Online: What made you want to do a film on Kofi Annan?

David Grubin: In his role as Secretary-General, Kofi Annan represents the highest ideals of the world community. The UN charter is quite specific about the UN's mandate: "to save future generations from the scourge of war; to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights; "to promote social progress and better standards of living." High ideals certainly point the way (our own Declaration of Independence is an example), but I wanted to know how, in a real world of power politics, nuclear weapons, and terrorism, Kofi Annan leads the UN in going about living up to them.

KOFI ANNAN Online: How were you able to gain such unprecedented access to the Secretary-General?

David Grubin: Kofi Annan made himself available to our cameras because I think he wanted people to come to understand what it is that a Secretary-General does, and how the UN works, and he recognized that television has the power to reach out to millions of people and show them.

KOFI ANNAN Online: What was the most exciting single moment of traveling with the Secretary-General?

David Grubin: I think I was pretty tensed-up about our arrival in Afghanistan. I had no idea what to expect, and when we got off the UN plane, the crush of reporters and cameramen pushing and shoving was a little frightening. But then to feel the excitement on the streets of Afghanistan was exhilarating. The war was over, the Taliban were gone, a new government was in place, girls were going back to school -- it felt, as the author William Shawcross put it to me in an interview -- like "Kabul Spring."

KOFI ANNAN Online: What difficulties or obstacles did you experience while filming?

David Grubin: Probably the real challenge in making a film like this was staying close to the Secretary-General. One trick was to hang on to his security guards, who were terrific guys and extremely helpful. His staff was also helpful, but often he'd be meeting with leaders from other countries who had no idea who we were, and there was no time to explain. Many times we'd be shut out of meetings, and we'd have to find out later what had happened.

KOFI ANNAN Online: How did making this film change your own view of the UN or the role of the Secretary-General?

David Grubin: It became very clear to me that the UN was built on a paradox: on the one hand, it stands for universal principles -- the right to self-determination, the right to be free from torture and abuse, even the "right to development" -- but it is made up of member countries, each of whom considers its own sovereignty inviolable. The UN is torn between moral imperatives and political realities.

KOFI ANNAN Online: What do you want viewers to come away with after watching the film?

David Grubin: I want viewers to see what makes Kofi Annan's job so difficult. Although the Secretary-General represents the world's ideals, he doesn't have an army or very much money. The UN budget is smaller than the budget of New York City. The only power the Secretary-General has comes from his ability to persuade and the integrity of his office.

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Photos: UN Photo/Sergey Bermeniev

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