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Hamptons International Film Festival: A Conversation With Plot For Peace Subject Jean Yves Ollivier

Submitted by on October 19, 2013 – 11:31 amNo Comment

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By Heather Buchanan

At the Hamptons International Film Festival you never know what fascinating world figures you will encounter.  I had the chance to sit down with the subject of the film Plot For Peace, Jean Yves Ollivier to get an inside view of his ace diplomatic negotiation skills

In this fascinating portrait of underground diplomatic negotiations one mysterious French business man emerges as an unsung hero.  Jean-Ives Ollivier, a native of Algeria, single handedly and at his own expense brings together disparate factions in Africa including diplomats, heads of states, generals, master spies and anti-apartheid fighters to facilitate peace and the release of Nelson Mandela from jail in South Africa in the 1980’s.  Ollivier’s ability to gain access unlike any traditional diplomat and bring together enemies and warring factions is a fascinating story.

A conversation with Jean Yves Ollivier:

Jean Yves Olliver

What compelled you to devote so much of your time and own resources to these negotiations?

Number one when you start something like this you never know how long it will take or how much it will cost.  You don’t think in terms of time or money when it’s a matter of human life.  I was lucky enough to be in a position that I can avoid thinking about it.  It makes you independent which is a big asset.

The film showed you could not get from A to B in terms of bringing the different players together in a negotiation.  It had to be a circuitous route.  How did you identify that and diplomatically know how to entice the different factions to the table?

It’s kind of a domino effect.  When you see a head of state and you already have an agreement with a previous head of state it gives you a plus in negation.  You will say so and so president has approved and is waiting for your answer.  You keep the most difficult one for the end because you bring the greatest number of people who have already said yes.

We are in trouble in our country because our government is stuck and we can’t get anybody to move.  Do you think you can help us?

It’s not different from a crisis around the world.  When they finish talking on the TV and they go home they have their wives and kids and it’s gone.  Maybe you should create a situation where they are closed in a secluded place and you close the door and say here are some bananas and when you have agreed we will let you out.  Believe me they will find a quicker solution.

Have you set your sights on a new project?

There are always projects going on.  Once you succeed in one situation people are tempted to ask you to help in another.  I am involved in other projects maybe not of this amplitude but in war and crisis and I still enjoy it.

Where is home for you?

I spend more nights in the plane than any single place.  I lost my home and I lost my country [Algiers].  I don’t have a feeling of any place which is home.  When I am in New York I am a New Yorker and when I am in London I am a Londoner.  I love the Hamptons.  I am sure I will come back.

How does it feel to have the recognition of the film winning the Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for Films of Conflict and Resolution here at HIFF?

We were taken by surprise and we were very happy to be selected.  One of the advantages of this movie is it is made by a NGO.  By nature it is not looking for profit or money making.  You are just trying to pass messages.  I can’t talk on behalf of the production but I remember one day I was with the chairman of the NGO and there were a lot of TV producers who would have wanted to make the movie and bring money and I asked the chairman why not?  He said no – I am interested by the number of viewers.  If tomorrow a TV channel wants to buy it for little money and will guarantee me 5 million viewers I want to be free to do it.  If I have financial partners I may not be able to do that.  This is one of the reasons I accepted the pleasure to do this movie because it is not profit oriented.  It took 3 ½ years to make with all the travel and interviews and visiting different countries two or three times.

By doing this film you were willing to reveal yourself as the mystery man behind the negotiations.

I have accepted to come out of the closet because I knew it was for a non profit organization and wanted to pass a message to the new generation and the universities.

There are very few people in the world who have earned a certain amount of success and are focused on how they want to give back.  Do you have a certain calling or something from your country of origin or is this fun for you, your raison d’etre?

I think it’s a combination.  I enjoy what I’m doing.   That is not to say I am not sometimes damaged because sometimes you fail.  I had another negotiation I was in and I had so many human lives and most of them were children and finally I failed.  I am not afraid of failing but of course I enjoy success.  I have to live with the fact that nothing is always going the way you want and it’s always a challenge and competition.  I love challenges and competitions.

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