First it was Bono, singer of the rock band U2, and other musicians and activists who pushed political and economic leaders of the industrial nations to forgive the debt of the worlds poorest nations.
Now its Hollywoods turn. HBO Films and BBC Productions have co-produced a film, The Girl in the Caf, that has the Herculean task of turning world poverty and the political choices global leaders face at the July G-8 Summit in Scotland into an artistic endeavor that people will watch.
The romantic comedy by screenwriter Richard Curtis, who also wrote the successful films Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones Diary, builds on the momentum of debt cancellation that has been gaining in circles from London to New York to Hollywood over the past several years.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the current chairman of the G-8 group, has aggressively pushed for debt cancellation to be placed high on the summit agenda, and in early June the G-8 finance ministers finally hammered out an accord to write off $40 billion in debt for the worlds poorest nations. Late in June the United Nations held a two-day meeting of finance and development ministers and financial institutions to find ways to push the debt relief program forward and finance the work of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.
The MDGs are a central theme of Curtiss film, which traces the journey of a lonely English bureaucrat working for the British finance ministry and a mysterious woman he meets in a caf on Downing Street. They go to a G-8 conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the romance plays out as the British negotiating team pushes an agenda to meet the MDGs and greatly decrease poverty by 2015. It might not make for great cinema, but if life really does imitate art, the stage will be set for a breakthrough in debt relief.
Paula L. Green