State Builders

In 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the world's newest nation. After a 50-year civil war, the stakes and hopes are high. But how does one build a country from scratch? The film follows a determined UN official and the country's newly appointed Vice-President as they attempt to put theory into practice to shape the young democracy.

The project was born out of our desire to make a film about forgotten wars and improbable peace. We wanted to film in the grey zone that occurs between war and peace, when it's neither quite one nor the other. Over the last two decades, the international community has theorized and modelled, step-by-step, how to go about nation building. Whatever the context, the same toolbox and recipes are applied. The UN's professional Nation Builders - veterans of Kosovo and East Timor - are now at work in South Sudan with a 19-point road map that has a price-tag in the billions of dollars. The day of its independence in July 2011 South Sudan had a flag, a national anthem, a capital, and its first president. But these were about the only elements that proved its existence. Today, everything else remains to be decided, built and done: the borders need to be set; a constitution drafted; an army and judicial system established ; revenues from oil production and income tax perceived - all the basic elements that make up a nation. Both the stakes and the expectations are high. We wish to document the historic creation of this new state: how does one go about building a democratic country? Throughout the year, and with exceptional access, the film will follow two of the most powerful people in the country: one of the heads of the UN mission in South Sudan, Lise Grande, and the Vice President, Riek Machar. Lise Grande is a passionate diplomat known for her directness and determination. Nicknamed "the Warrior of Peace", she is a skilled politician at ease in her role as a woman of power amongst soldiers. She is smart, charismatic and firmly believes in the power of ideologies. Like most of the newly appointed Sudanese ministers, Riek Machar learned about statecraft far from traditional schools, as a rebel leader and liberation fighter in the bush. He now negotiates with UN agencies on a daily basis. Health, education, finances - his country would not exist without the UN's billions... How does he navigate amid the international community's meddling, fully aware of his dependence on these partners? We will also hear from those that the programs call 'the populations' - a plural which includes locals, victims, refugees, and belies their unique voices. How do they live this prefabricated peace that is brought to them? We want to show the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the measures decided above, as they come into play concretely on the ground. What is exceptional here is that the whole process will be visible, starting from the highest sphere of the international community, with its ideals and theories, down to the ground-level work with its structures, kits and procedures. It's this nitty-gritty reality of state-building that we want to capture, where the absurd and the necessary come together, revealing much more than any official report about the state of the world.

Production team