I.- Cannes 2012: Bernard-Henri Levy’s ‘The Oath of Tobruk Revolution’ to Screen May 25 (The Hollywood Reporter, article de Rebecca Leffler
The film about the Libyan uprising has been added to the festival’s lineup.
They may have sworn the official selection was complete, but the Cannes Film Festival has added Bernard-Henri Levy’s The Oath of Tobruk to its lineup. Levy’s film will receive a special screening on May 25th. The film focuses on the eight-month conflict in Libya that ended the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi.
Levy and the festival have invited four key figures from the Libyan revolution to Cannes to attend the screening.
« By selecting the just-finished Le Serment de Tobrouk for the Festival, Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux intend to remind us that a film can represent a passing of the torch between people inspired by a shared love of freedom,” the fest said in a statement.
II.- French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy calls for West to intervene in Syria (The Independent, article de Kaleem Aftab, le 25 mai 2012)
Bernard-Henri Lévy is calling for France and the West to intervene in Syria as his new documentary The Oath of Tobruk debuts at the Cannes Film Festival tonight.
“I made this film for Syria,” he told The Independent in an exclusive interview. “It is time for us to intervene. One of the targets of movie is to show what can be done in Syria. I know that it is possible to do, it is feasible and it is doable and it’s a shame that it is not done and this is why the movie is done, to show what can be done.“
According to Lévy the film shows why intervention worked in Libya and not Iraq and how the conditions are present in Syria. “In Iraq we had no international mandate, there was no demand on the ground of the people, there was no representative leader for the forces against Saddam Hussein, in Iraq it was Western versus Arab country in Libya there was a real coalition with Arab countries involved in coalition with Emirati and Qatar forces. Intervention is justified if you have these conditions.”
The documentary is a personal perspective of the uprising in Libya. It explains how he travelled to Libya as a journalist, meeting and getting involved with the rebels fighting against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, later making the telephone call to French president Nicolas Sarkozy asking him to take action. The film features interviews with Sarkozy, David Cameron and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Former French President Sarkozy went on TV in March last year to explain how it was a call from Lévy that set in motion his meeting with the rebels that kick-started French and British involvement in the war.
Lévy says “The film bears witness to what I saw, and what I was part of, I think that for an intellectual writer, there is a duty of transmission when you are part of something and you have information you are only one to have and you are part of something bigger, when you are a statesman you have duty of silence. When you are intellectual you have a duty to say.”
He also believes that it’s impossible to know if new French President Hollande will support his call. If not he believes that British Prime Minister David Cameron may now have to take on responsibility for a coalition of forces against Syria. “Cameron is probably the person to go to, but I don’t know him so well. I met him twice. The second time was for the interview for the film.”
Yet these meetings were enough to convince him of the British Prime Minister’s credentials of leading a Syrian campaign, “ I was impressed by Cameron, I was impressed by his energy, good will and good faith. In Libya, which is the situation what I saw here, he did show, like Sarkozy, a great quality of leadership.”
III.- Lévy’s Libya: a philosopher’s phone call to arms against Gaddafi (The Guardian, article de Charlotte Higgins, 25 mai 2012)
As a French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy is a creature perfectly unimaginable in Anglo-Saxon culture. In true Gallic style the philosopher is as famous for his luxuriant steel-grey mane, handmade black suits and crisp white shirts (invariably unbuttoned to reveal startling acreages of tanned flesh) as his prolific literary output and ferocious critiques of socialism.
In all, he is a figure many Britons find quite hard to take seriously; to tell the truth, there are even those in France who find him, despite his undoubted intellect, arrogant and pretentious.
Yet, by his own account – an account that has received no challenge – it was this philosopher who, in March 2011, persuaded the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy to recognise the leaders of the emerging Libyan opposition. And it was Sarkozy, straight on the phone to David Cameron, who rallied the international community to support military intervention in Libya.
It is this remarkable story that is unblushingly told in a documentary both directed by, and starring, the 63-year-old philosopher.
Accorded a special screening at the Cannes festival, it features extensive footage of events in Libya last year, as well as interviews with Sarkozy, Cameron and Hillary Clinton. Its rights have already been snapped up by the indie-movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
When we met at his secluded hotel, the chosen retreat of visiting film stars, at a safe distance from what he called the « soupe » of Cannes, Lévy said the film’s purpose was « to show what an individual can do ».
He said: « People so often despair that there is nothing they can do when faced with a terrible situation. But something can always be done. »
It is not the philosopher’s first film. A 1994 documentary, Bosna! was a cri-de-coeur about the appalling situation in Sarajevo; it also premiered at Cannes. It was taken a great deal more seriously than his next, Le Jour et la Nuit, a feature starring Alain Delon, Lauren Bacall and Lévy’s wife, the actor Arielle Dombasle. That film’s premiere at the Berlin film festival in 1997 descended into farce when its hero’s supposedly poignant death in a ballooning accident was greeted with cheers and laughter.
The new film is quite a different proposition: it has urgent political purpose, Lévy said. As we spoke he fielded calls finalising arrangements for members of the Syrian opposition to attend the premiere; the film would be dedicated to them. « I want what happened in Libya to be perceived as the proof that foreign intervention is possible in Syria. Homs today is Benghazi yesterday, » he said.
The film is called The Oath of Tobruk, a reference to the oath of Kufra, made when the Free French scored their first victory in Libya and swore not to lay down their arms until France was liberated from the Nazis.
Those with a cynical turn of mind might be tempted to rename it How I Ran the Libyan Revolution. As the documentary unfolds, we see a besuited Lévy wading through the desert sands to the rebel frontlines; or picking his way through the tank-crushed suburbs of Benghazi, this time with a cashmere scarf added to his ensemble.
Here is the former student of Jacques Derrida, his shirt now dangerously unbuttoned, poring over maps with the rebel generals; here he is addressing a tricolor-waving rally of Libyan youth ( »Ce pays – c’est la France! »); here he is accompanying National Transitional Council leaders to a meeting with Clinton, and briefing them on Sarkozy’s psychology.
In a sequence that teeters dangerously on the brink of self parody we watch him, in full James Bond mode, flying to Turkey on a cloak-and-dagger mission to source night-vision goggles for his friends in the rebel militias.
The tailoring has a serious purpose, he said. « I would not be one of those who when they go to a miserable place has a miserable-place uniform, with a special jacket and so on. It would be inelegant, it would be unfair, it would be what we call moche [tasteless]. It’s a question of decency and respect.
« I tried in a very humble and methodical way to do the best I could. In this situation there were a lot of things done, 99% of them by the Libyan people, by Nato forces, by diplomats. There was a little part of all this not done by them, but done by a small group of guys, including me. »
The film begins with Lévy crossing the border from Egypt to Libya in March 2011, and attending a meeting of the young National Transitional Council, led by the former minister of justice Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
Fortuitously, he was accompanied by a photographer, Marc Roussel, who switched his camera to video mode. The footage of the meeting shows the philosopher, calling, with the full force of his considerable personality, for five minutes to speak. Then Lévy tells the Libyans that what they need is three things: a no-fly zone, the main airports bombed and Gaddafi’s compound targeted. And, he says, he can phone Sarkozy and demand them.
The next scene shows Lévy on his satellite phone to the Elysée palace. The president duly agreed to meet, and formally recognise, the NTC.
The intellectual and the politician have known each other since the 1980s – a relationship that Lévy characterised as « old friendship, and strong political opposition ».
Concerning his boldness, some would say presumption, in making his initial offer to the rebels, Lévy simply shrugged. He had no right to do it, he admitted. But he felt he had had to.
« I saw on my way from the border to Benghazi so many scenes of horror, heard so many accounts of abominations, that I really thought that the international community needed to act and quickly. So I dared. It was a dare. »
Alain Juppé, then foreign minister, was at first kept in the dark about the conversations, hearing of Sarkozy’s embracing of the NTC when it was a done deal. Lévy shrugged. « Juppé was not very pleased, but in such a situation one has to deal as little as possible with sentiment, » he said.
For all his confidence, Lévy said that he « had, and still had, doubts about what can come after ». He said: « Democracy means good and bad. Progressives, liberals and Muslim brothers. I am not naive enough to ignore that. »
But, he added: « I had no doubts on two points. One, there would have been a bloodbath if we had not acted, and two, we could intervene. As Cameron said, it was doable. »
Cameron, whom he met in Benghazi and Tripoli on a « triumphal trip », impressed him with his « charisma, energy and real good faith ». Lévy said that for Cameron, Sarkozy and Clinton, Bosnia was the watchword, the password ». « The three of them said to me the same word: Bosnia, Srebenica, never more. »
For himself Lévy has never had ambition for political office, preferring to work through his powerful contacts and considerable inherited wealth. « I do what I want. I am a free man. This is what distinguishes me from others, I am completely free … I like the idea of mandating myself and of being accountable to myself. » As if to prove it, his parting shot, as I fumble with my purse to pay for tea, is mischievous. « I know the ontology of the Anglo-Saxon woman refuses it, but please, allow me to make you my guest. »