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Horowitz in Cote d'Ivoire (Disruptive Pictures)

Serious fun

Movies | Ami Horowitz hopes to shed light on why the U.N. is not working through 'docutainment'

On a quiet Saturday night in 2006, investment banker Ami Horowitz was lying in bed in his Manhattan apartment watching Michael Moore's groundbreaking documentary Bowling for Columbine. As he was drifting off to sleep, he had an epiphany: Moore's irreverent style of filmmaking would be the perfect vehicle for exposing the tyranny and corruption long fostered in the United Nations. Except, of course, Moore would never make that film. That's when Horowitz, a conservative Jew, realized he could. He got up, started making notes, and less than two weeks later quit his job at Lehman Brothers to begin raising money for his first film project.

Fast-forward six years and the vision Horowitz had that night has become a reality. Rave reviews (including my own) are pouring in for U.N. Me (rated PG-13), a documentary that offers the kind of scathing and provocatively funny entertainment rarely seen in anything with a right-leaning point of view. After privately screening it for such luminaries as Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and Dick Cheney, Horowitz's film, which investigates both familiar and newly uncovered U.N. scandals, is now playing in major cities and is available at Apple's iTunes Store and on several cable system's video on demand services.

I recently spoke with Horowitz about the making of U.N. Me.

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Tell me a little bit about how you came to a decision as drastic as quitting your profitable, secure job in the financial sector to dive into the precarious and often unprofitable entertainment industry. Even though I grew up in Los Angeles I never had any sort of desire to make a movie. But for some reason that night I was thinking about the United Nations. And I was thinking about their bias against Israel and about Rwanda, how here was this genocide that happened not in the olden days but in the '90s. And then I thought, forget the '90s, there's genocide going on today in the Sudan. I was thinking, here I am, ensconced in my comfortable, Upper West Side apartment, and there are people running for their lives right now in terror.

And I had two really strong emotions to these thoughts. The first was that I was infuriated. And the second was I felt really small, like there was no way I could change anything. And I hated having that feeling. I looked over at my TV screen, and that's when I had what I felt was a true epiphany from God. I thought, this medium that Michael Moore has really perfected-taking a topic and using satire to amplify your argument in a documentary-is perfect for this topic. And literally that night I stayed up all night and thought, "I have got to quit my job, this is the sacrifice I have got to make." It didn't start with my thinking, "I have to make a movie." It started out with my thinking about the U.N. Of course, now that I've been bitten by the filmmaking bug, I don't ever want to go back to investment banking.

One of the things that impressed me when I first saw U.N. Me was not only how well-paced and well-argued it is, but also how funny it is. Almost all the punch lines land. How does a first-time filmmaker pull that off? One of the things I'm really proud of is that while I'm a conservative, most of the guys I hired to work on my movie were liberal. If you're only going to reach out, in terms of talent, to a conservative talent pool … well, that isn't a very deep pool, so you're setting yourself up for failure. I knew what abilities I had and what abilities I didn't have, [laughing] mostly didn't have. So I knew I had to reach out for really good, deep talent, and the only way to do that was to hire liberals. So we got the cinematographer who shot An Inconvenient Truth. Our editor edited The Fog of War. And with our writers, I hired some guys from The Onion and The Daily Show and some of Michael Moore's guys. I had to reach out across party lines to bring together what I thought was an all-star team, and I think that's reflected in the quality. But at the same time I still kept true to the message. And when these guys saw the atrocities, the ludicrous nature of the U.N., they said "We've got to get this out there."

I actually became friendly with Michael Moore through this process, and though he vociferously disagrees with my premise, he's very supportive of conservatives making movies. He thinks we haven't done a good enough job. He loves mixing it up and doesn't shy away from heated discussion. Believe it or not, he's a fan of Sean Hannity's. He doesn't agree with anything Sean says, but he does like Sean's style.


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