I’m at the press conference for Angelina Jolie’s film and the battle-lines are drawn. Subtly, because Ms. Jolie knows her way around this business, but there’s a feeling of them and us. Definitely.
For one thing: it’s about it’s about one hundred degrees in here. Ms. Jolie is wearing something short-sleeved and is looking cool, calm and very collectible. The pack facing her is sweating in quilted coats and winter jumpers. Scarves snake around chairs, hats litter the floor. Some of us have stripped down. And now we’re not sure in which pocket we left our smart phones or our pens. People rummage around, cursing.
Another thing: we’ve been kept hanging around. If this were the back of the school bus, there’d be some raucous renditions of ‘why are we waiting?’ But it isn’t and we are patient. We know that we are the special ones. The rest are out front. They came too late. They won’t get to see her.
There was a protracted photo shoot that we were privileged to watch via monitor. First, most of Ms. Jolie’s cast, in drips and drabs, posing in little groups. Last, slipping in neatly at center stage, Ms. Jolie herself. Everybody links arms. All together now.
A barrage of lights and calls as they come into the press conference room: over here, Angelina. Left, right. She smiles. She’s very gracious. Really. She is. Her smile is electric. Then each and every member of the cast gets to introduce themselves. It takes forever, but the strategy is clear. They are all, to a man or woman, local. They are from Sarajevo or Bosnia. They know the city; they witnessed that situation, this atrocity. They wanted to be involved, they are honoured, privileged, blessed. They are sure. And they are friends now, with Angelina. Because she understands what they went through and that it needed to be shown.
Finally, a question for Ms. Jolie: and it’s a question about the partisan, allegedly pro-Muslim view taken by her film. She is unfazed. The questioner is entitled to exercise his right to view a work of art as he sees fit, as we all do, from our respective points of view that depend, she pauses … depend on our backgrounds. Did I get that right? The implication that we see what we want to see, or what we’ve been taught to see. That’s clever: the suggestion that we are all of us, those behind the mikes and those in front of them, culturally and socially conditioned: that wars are begun and conducted by those who fail to recognize this.
We’re all in this together then, part of a community of prejudice, which it’s up to art to unmask. The remaining questions for Ms. Jolie and her team hover around responsibilities such as these, for children, history, social conscience, but the mood is milder. It’s not long now before she rises, gathers her band of brothers and sisters and leaves. We get up, too and shuffle away. Already we are questioning the wisdom of what she said, regretting our quiescence. But it’s too late now. The thin lady has sung and now she’s gone. Better luck next time.