Milo you are a film director, a writer, a journalist. How would you define yourself first?
All of these, but much film director by the way.
You have been defined the most controversial film director of our times, for sure the most acclaimed. What does mean to be controversial nowdays? Do you find yourself in this expression?
Yes, if you mean that being controversial causes problems yes, I do. Sometimes we had problems as it happened with the Moscow Trials, we had a lot of problems in Russia and with The Congo Tribunal with extractive entrepreneurs, there were misunderstandings and the reason is that we are touching difficult or political subjects.
You founded the International Institute of Political Murder. The name suggests that you are very much engaged with national and international politics and with States’ crimes. Your aim is to put these crimes under the spotlight of public attention using art.
How did you come upon this idea to speak of unconvenient issues through art exhibitions performances theatre?
Honestly, I trust I made all these projects as they are all tackling political issues, as it was with the pièce Five Easy Pieces played in Milan some months ago. It is a very intimate play, it states taboo, pedofila. Other plays as The Congo Tribunal is openly a political intervention. It wanted to change some laws, even introduce some regulations in the global economy. It is not only descriptive, it is interventive as well. It is from year to year more important in our work. Art can have an impact.
If politics does not act, art has to take over, that is the reason why we have to do it. In our times there are too many things to be changed. Last reason is because it is possible to do it on the web.
Recentely you have made “1917 Exibition of a Revolution”. A drama set between 1917-1918. Did you mean to provoke a debate about Russia’s revolution and its legacy for humanity. A legacy very controversial indeed.
It was a project in three parts, one was called Lenin, it was an historical play with links to today’s world; the other one was an alternative Parliament in Berlin and the third part was the story of the Reichtag, the German Parliament to say that in a globalized world we need a globalized politics and a global Parliament. All these three things together are a kind of revival of the revolution of hundred years ago.
First with the October Revolution, that was the end of revolution, Febraury revolution was the real revolution in terms of opening to democracy and it was closed by the take over of the Bolshevik. Even if I am an admirer of Lenin somehow, politically he was completely totalitarian. My play was really controversial, the more borgeois press found it extremely negative, others defined the play Leninist kitch, too much pro the Bolshevik, and so on, even of the public liked it.
It is not too difficult to make a scandal around the October Revolution, even if I didn’t mean it.
Let’s talk about The Congo Tribunal. A people’s tribunal putting together victims, perpetrators, participated by high-ranking people in the jury and aimed at investigating some massacres and incidents occurred in eastern Congo, in the Bisie Mine or the Mutarule massacre, in the village between Uvira e Bukavu on the border of Rwanda. The play wants to cast light on the very causes and responsibilities of the longest lasting conflict in Africa, one of the bloodiest. The Guardian called The Congo Tribunal the most ambitious political theatre ever staged.
Under the prospective of the … let’s say pragmatic impossibility of the project to have an international jury against the rebels, against the big multinationals, against the United Nations, against the local government, this is one of the greatest thing we ever did. From the beginning I was not sure it will be possible and when it happened and we filmed, it was somehow an utopia. We are trying to continue the project and make more tribunals.
What did push you to make this film?
There is a line in the work we are doing. We made Hate Radio two years ago, a reconstruction of a radio broadcast, RTML, based on actual events during the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. Then we were in eastern Congo. So it is one line. Another line was the history of violence I describe in my all works, not only in Congo but in Russia, in German, in Switzerland.
The last reason that prompted me to make The Congo Tribunal I wanted to make a portrait of the world economy. With this format of tribunal I could succeed to bring all these people in one room.
Why did you chose as second hearing Berlin?
There are several reasons. The main place for me was eastern Congo. But the issue is linked with the European Union also. And Berlin is the economic capital of Europe, if you like or not.
How long did you stay in eastern Congo?
From end 2013 to 2015, not continuously. All together five months.
What about the reaction of local people?
It is a project more or less performed by Congolese activists, lawyers, rebels, most of the team and most of the performances are from Congo with some people invited from Europe. It is interesting for us to have also a look on the European Union. It is The Congo Tribunal but you could also call The European Tribunal because it is a Tribunal against the German economy or the Swiss economy and so on. The film means more than the title.
In the film there are some women whose children were slaughtered during one of the many conflicts of this war. They cry for justice. Do you think that you gave them some hope?
What we made is the first tribunal in eastern Congo ever made. It is the beginning of a system of tribunals. There are many more southern cases, we chose simbolically three of them, three different cases. The next step is to go on and on. We’ll have a follow-up next year, we keep on feeding more and more tribunals.
The Congo Tribunal is symbolically because with 7 millions dead you can’t have real justice. Additionally a real justice in eastern Congo would become a cage, a prison, so it would be impossible. Only simbolically it is possible.
How would you define this war, the decade-lasting Congolese conflict? I mean, is it neo-colonialist war whose roots are deeply embedded in this past, or is it modern war, a war triggered by globalization and fought for raw materials? Or both of them?
It is all of this. Congo was founded in the Berlin Congress in 1886 and since then this war has been happening all time. The last twenty years were the bloodiest. It has been a bloody land for more than one hundred years. There are different levels : a difficult nation-building, an etnic war, economic conflicts, post-colonialism war. It is as difficult as in the Middle East.
In The Congo Tribunal we have chosen to focus on the economic level.
In the end the United Nation’s mission was absolved of any direct complicity in the massacre of Mutarule, in the Berlin hearing the EU and the World Bank have been hold guilty for crimes. Could you explain the different reasons underlying these two different verdicts?
The United Nations depend on nations, they are stopped by the US or Russia. They can’t be active. The problem with the UN is their passivity and I think from a legal point of view we cannot speak of guilt, their guilt is their passivity.
We had a lot of problems with the UN mission in eastern Congo, they supported us a lot at the beginning, then when they understood we would deal the Mutarule case they stopped any support just ten days before the tribunal began. It was quite difficult for us, but we wanted to be fair all the same. The United Nations need to be restructured to become a genuine peace keeping tool.