James Demo’s The Peacemaker, screened at the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh, is a documentary portraying the life of Padraig O’Malley, who worked in some of the most significant conflicts throughout his life – from Northern Ireland to South Africa, to Iraq. His peacemaking process model is interestingly based on his own recovery from alcohol addiction. The idea is that, much in the same way a recovering alcoholic is in the best position to help another recovering alcoholic, a country that experienced cultural conflict is in the best position to help another.
Thus, Demo films him during the last act of his life, in his older years, as he works this model in different conflict zones, such as Nigeria, Iraq, and Kosovo. However, the director is clearly not as interested in the process itself (the “how” and the “what”) as much as he is interested in why O’Malley does what he does. As a result, he follows O’Malley and, over the course of little over five years, is able to take a closer look at his troubled private life, his vulnerabilities, his insecurities, and the curious way in which a successful international peacemaker is not as well versed in dealing with the demons in his life as he is able to help facilitate peace in some of the most violent conflicts in the world.
It helps that O’Malley appears to be a very honest man, quite willing to share some of his takes on matters that go beyond his work process, such as his personal struggles aging and mortality, and his inability to reverse the physical process by which he is no longer able to do what he was once able to do due to situations beyond his control. It is thanks to his honesty and his willingness to open up about his private life, as well as the filmmaker’s willingness to remain open to what was happening in the five years during which he filmed him, that The Peacemaker feels like an insightful and intimate story about a remarkable man who, despite his incredible achievements, still struggles to search for meaning in his own life. – ★★★★
THE PEACEMAKER | 2016, USA | Documentary | Directed by – James Demo / Produced by – James Demo / Written by – James Demo / Music by – Al Lethbridge / Cinematography by – Beth Balaban, Kevin Belli, James Demo, Mike Hechanova, Sarah Levy / Editing by – Erin Casper | Running time: 90 mins.