It’s beginning to sound like a scenario for a screenplay: a brilliant young woman of African descent is chosen to become France’s first minister of human rights. Full of energy and enthusiasm, she does her job as best she can, in light of the fact that the president who hired her invites Muammar Gaddafi to set up a tent in the backyard of the Elysée Palace, and refuses to meet with the Dali Lama before the Olympics take place in China. Her immediate superior, Bernard Kouchner, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, seems like the ideal boss, being the co-founder of Doctors Without Borders and widely recognized as a leader in humanitarian causes.
But after she speaks out against the Gaddafi visit (see my previous post, Rama Yade Rocks), she is sternly rebuked by the president. She does what she can to assume a more neutral tone, and for a time fades into the background. Slowly, she begins to suspect that what seemed to be an idealistic gesture on the part of the government, is really a marketing ploy. She starts to see that her position was created not so much to promote human rights as to promote the notion that the government is pro-human rights. That her youth (she’s only 32) and beauty serve the president’s image-machine as much as her smarts. And that every time she actually speaks out in favor for human rights she catches more flack than accolades from her colleagues. The final blow comes when the president tries to send her off to Brussels to stand in the European legislative elections. She refuses, because she hopes to be a candidate for the French legislature in 2012. Going to Brussels, she says “would be like a forced marriage to Prince Albert.” The president throws a hissy fit, punishing her by denying her an expected promotion to secretary of state for European Affairs. Then comes the betrayal. The next day, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Bernard Kouchner declares that he was wrong to ask for the creation of a ministry of human rights, and that the post serves no purpose.
The end of the film is still being written. Rama Yade, the leading character, is currently trying to fight back, saying that “there will always be those who want to renounce this important battle” and that the “fight (for human rights) is not over, the struggle continues.” As does her own.