Watchers of the Sky, which was produced in 2014 and won a number of major awards at film festivals, including Sundance, is a documentary about Raphael Lemkin, the man who in 1944 coined the term “genocide.” Lemkin, a student of international law, was a Polish Jew who escaped to the U.S. in 1940 but lost more than 40 members of his family in the Holocaust. He had already been sensitized to the issue of mass murder by the large-scale destruction of the Armenians during World War I, and in America he turned his attention to creating a word to describe “a crime without a name” (as Churchill called it), and gaining recognition that the perpetration of such an act was a crime under international law.
In the end, he succeeded on both fronts, for he was able to persuade the United Nations to criminalize genocidal campaigns. Watchers of the Sky not only recounts Lemkin’s work, but reviews the ongoing effort to counter genocide by international efforts. Several figures prominent in this effort appear in the film, including Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning study of genocide and currently the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Tavi Gupta, who coordinates a Portland-area program on the Holocaust and genocide, and Sonia Marie Leikam, former director of the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, will introduce the film and lead a discussion of it at the close.
This event is co-sponsored by The Holocaust and Genocide Studies Project at Portland State University