To meet Bernard-Henri Lévy, in person, is one hell of a thing. To hear his mind through the lens of the camera is just a bonus.
The other day I attended, in Los Angeles, the first showing of Lévy’s newly released documentary, “The Will To See” (Une Autre Idée Du Monde). The screening was put together by the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF), Executive Director Hilary Helstein, in partnership with the Landmark Theatres and Cohen Media, all are proud to present this new and very timely documentary, dealing with wars around the world, with an emphasis of the current war that Russia inflicted on Ukraine and for which the screening was dedicated to, and the most honest, emotional and interesting Q & A session that followed the viewing.
For those who ask who is Bernard-Henri Lévy, he is a French public intellectual, a filmmaker, author, a philosopher, an activist and public minds’ shaper who is well known all over the world. Lévy’s opinions, political activism and publications are often subject to public debate.
In this documentary, director Bernard-Henri Lévy, co-director Marc Roussel, produced by Kristina Larsen and Suzanna Andler, executive produced by Emily Hamilton, with Madison Films in co-production with France 2 Cinéma and the participation of France Télévisions, Canal+ and Ciné+, Lévy, through his eyes and the steadfast lens, gives the viewers a stern aspect at lengthy and ongoing “forgotten wars,” “the wars that never end,” the wars that bring ‘Hope’ that is all just words,” as Lévy calls them, i.e. Somalia, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Isis, Mogadishu, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Libya, where anti-Semitic “no Jews” slurs were thrown at him, he being a Jew, and Ukraine.
None of these wars which Lévy takes the audience up close are local, yet they have international impact and they cause the most urgent humanitarian crises around the globe. The documentary informs the viewers, living in the democratic world, to be aware of these corridors of misery as well as it challenges them to do something about them.
“The Will To See” camera follows Lévy when he was sent by a group of international newspapers to report from countries around the world, disrupted by war and where the most challenging geopolitical disasters occur, yet, hardly anyone has been paying attention to what is taking place there.
Lévy, who is most thankful and honored to have his French produced documentary released for screening in the United States, which is most unusual, took a leap into the darkest and riskiest places in the world to document what is happening there while they are either totally ignored by the media or hardly ever being reported about.
In the film he also touches on the swarms of illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to land on the Greek Island of Lesbos where they find themselves living in subhuman dangerous encampment conditions.
“The Will To See” is an unusual travel log adventurous diary Lévy lived through before and during the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020, which in itself shows determination and consistency, how to respect the restriction and yet, go on with production and complete the project, no matter what, in order to bring it to the attention of the world.
“A film comes as an opportunity,” says Lévy. This documentary is “one of the most important things I have done in my life.” He confesses that he played a French game with himself during the production, involving his spirit, emotions, heart and memory and to see a full house attending the screening in Los Angeles, the city of the film industry, overwhelmed him.
Lévy’s Risky and Adventurous Travel Log
During this troubled year, Lévy met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and took the risk to be embedded with the Ukrainian forces in the trenches of the Donbas region’s combat frontline.
He traveled to Nigeria’s Christian villages where civilians are being slaughters and decimated by the Boko Haram tribes, officially known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, a terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, which is also active in Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon.
Lévy met with General Mazlum Kobane, in his bunker in Syrian Kurdistan, met with the brave Kurdish fighting women and made a mountain rope jump into the caves where ISIS still operates, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He met and spent time with the new leader, Ahmad Massoud, the proud son of Lévy’s old friend, the late Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, before the US disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s take-over. There, the Afghans continue to fight the Taliban and keep the hope for freedom and democracy ongoing.
During the Q & A
“These wars are not a matter of Right or Left, it is a much deeper case,” Lévy claims. “When there are no images of the victims and the crimes are not documented, as this documentary portrays, it is a free road for evil to prevail.” “It is much better to have, maybe way too much images, as the social media of all its outlets offers these days, then none. Exposure to the reality of this evil is imperative.”
When asked about the United Nations Organizations (UN) place in these wars, he thinks the organization has a terribly flawed system, it is in a deep coma, doing its job in a comatose state. Otherwise, he would not have had to embark on making this documentary.
Asked about the war in the Ukraine, on the minds of the entire western world these days and to where Lévy has been back and forth countless times, he is encouraging the heroic Ukrainian people in their fight for democracy, which is part of the reportage. He claims that Vladimir Putin is not fighting a war against a military, rather, he, brutally and in the most archaic violent war tactics, targets and kills Ukrainian civilians. “This is plain and simple war crimes” he claims.
As for Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, Lévy’s opinion is that “he was a happy going rather new to the presidency, who was not shaped to be a chief of war; not shaped and prepared to face Putin’s Russian war machine, yet, he took the challenge, he did not run away but encouraged his people to fight for their country and their freedom and thus he became a war leader hero in his time.”
Where the Fighting Spirit Came From
Born to André Lévy, his freedom fighter father, who transmitted to him the sense of revolt when fascism is advancing, with his documentary Lévy’s intention is to open the public’s eyes that nothing changes. He has followed wars around the world that never end for many years.
“Fascism is not dead, rather it is steadily growing inside democracies and is close and threatening to take over power. We must resist fascism and take sides against evil, which is the mission of real democracy,” is Lévy’s message.
Lévy’s film The Will To See has one message to the world: pay attention before it’s too late and care for the common good of humanity. Now more than ever, we must have the “will to see,” not close our eyes because we choose not to see.
Though the evening has served as a rallying call to support Ukraine, it has given the audience an alarming viewpoint at our world, a world of misery and hope, from where the gunfire, the brutality, simply does not reach our democratic societies and the peace and quiet life we mostly enjoy.
The Will To See Recommended
To recommend attending a screening of “The Will To See” is one thing; to thereafter sit back and give self-accountability for our world, where evil prevails and where people are fighting to get rid of evil is another one hell of a thing.