Stockholm Agreement /Stockholmsavtalet
Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment
Tanja Holm’s Stockholm Agreement introduces us to the contemporary Yemeni conflict via the Stockholm peace talks for the conflict. Initially, the war seems simple. Two sides are represented at the peace talks. On one hand there is the Yemeni government led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. On the other is the Houthi armed movement and their allies. Both claim to constitute the legitimate government of Yemen. With this, the peace talks seem to offer a utopian resolution to the conflict in the form of peace.
However, not is all as seems. We find that one considerable Yemeni group, the Southern Yemenis represented in the film through activist Hend Omairan, are not represented in talks. Without all parties within present day Yemen involved how can peace be achieved? What is brought into relief, then, is the position that the UN and Western countries, here Sweden, take in being moral beacons to the world. If the peace talk already contains its own political framing, negating the voice of Southern Yemenis, what is the angle Sweden and the UN take here?
Within this critical frame that Holm sets up a disturbing truth comes to the fore. At the same time that Sweden hosts these peace talks they continue their weapons and arms trade on a global scale. What’s more, their trade is one of the most lucrative in Europe. Western states, at the same time as self-producing an image of moral excellence projected to the world, depend on war for weapons and arms production and economic revenue. The attempts at peace talks thus come to look cynical – ideological propaganda pulled together into a cheap photo-op. In our interview with Holm she likens this to the act of an abuser.
Far from this, and much more pertinent to Holm’s message, we are sporadically placed with Yemeni journalist Manal Alwesabi. Via video call and archival footage we witness the destruction and fear the Yemeni conflict has created. Once we come to the end of the film, the dire reality sinks in. There are no happy endings here.