The Reckoning

The Battle for the International Criminal Court
Year Released
Film Length(s)
95 mins
Remote video URL


A David and Goliath battle of titanic proportions unfolds as International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo faces down warlords, genocidal dictators and world superpowers in his struggle to tame the Wild West of global conflict zones and bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.

Featured review

The Reckoning conveys the extreme trickiness of achieving both peace and justice amid politically loaded situations.


Late in the 20th century, in response to repeated mass atrocities that convulsed the world, more than 120 countries united to form the International Criminal Court (ICC)—the first permanent, independent (treaty based) international criminal court created to prosecute perpetrators (no matter how powerful) of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court follows dynamic ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo and his team for 3 years across 4 continents as he issues arrest warrants for Lord’s Resistance Army leaders in Uganda, puts Congolese warlords on trial, shakes up the Colombian justice system, and charges Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir with genocide in Darfur, challenging the UN Security Council to arrest him. Building cases against genocidal criminals presents huge challenges, and the Prosecutor has a justice mandate but no police force. At every turn, he must pressure the international community to muster political will for the cause.

Like a deft thriller, The Reckoning keeps you on the edge of your seat, in this case with two riveting dramas—the prosecution of unspeakable crimes and the ICC’s fight for efficacy in its nascent years. As this tiny court in The Hague struggles to change the world and forge a new paradigm for justice, the forces of impunity fight back. Will the Prosecutor succeed? Will the world ensure that justice prevails?


The Reckoning is a riveting look at the ICC's efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of some of the world's worst crimes while those offenses are still taking place.
USA Today
USA Today
We tend to steer away from film recommendations here, but a documentary about the International Criminal Court, airing on BPS, should be worth your while.
American Lawyer
American Lawyer

Awards and Screenings

One World Film Festival, Audience Award, 2009
Politics on Film Festival, Best Documentary, 2009
Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival , 2009
London Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, 2009
San Francisco International Film Festival, 2009
New York Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, 2009
United Nations Association Film Festival (USA), 2009
Nuremberg Perspektiv Human Rights Film Festival (Germany): , 2009
Amnesty International Movies That Matter Film Festival (Netherlands): , 2009
Watch Docs – Human Rights in Film International Film Festival (Poland): , 2009

Director Commentary

I heard about the International Criminal Court (ICC) from a member of the Peruvian Truth Commission. In a high Andean village, he told me he had previously worked as part of a coalition to establish the first permanent international criminal court that would try perpetrators for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The idea that no one would be immune, that even heads of states might be brought to justice for genocide during an ongoing conflict, was amazing. This would represent a paradigm shift in the growing panorama of international justice. After the bloodiest century in human history, this new Court would force us to ask, "Does humanity have the possibility of doing better than this?"

I started out thinking that The Reckoning would be about the ICC's cases and trials and would be structured like a good crime thriller. Because the Court investigates during ongoing conflicts, I knew I would have to lead a film team to the sites of some of the world's worst conflicts — Colombia, Darfur, Uganda and Congo, where over 4 million people are estimated to have died in the worst conflict since World War II. Quickly I realized that I had to expand my vision for the film in order to include the effects the International Criminal Court was having at the local level, where its investigations were causing a tremendous amount of controversy, because the Court was intervening in ongoing conflicts where peace negotiations were underway. The Court's arrest warrants generated a global debate about whether the interests of peace and justice were at odds. In the end, the Court itself became the protagonist of The Reckoning, and all the cinematic elements were developed during the process of realizing this idea.

I chose to work with a real Dutch Master, cinematographer Melle van Essen. Together we devised a look for the Court, which is based in The Hague. We chose a cool blue that echoed the Court's minimalist high-tech headquarters. It is a look that highlights the world's best and brightest, the young prosecutors who are drawn to this idea of a court that doesn’t allow perpetrators any impunity that might stand in the way of their punishment.

In the footage of Uganda and the Congo, the hues are bright, the light warm. This was meant to reflect the depth of war's destruction by setting it against the real beauty of the lands and their ancient cultures. The first humans came from this part of Africa, and we are all their descendants. The climactic story of The Reckoning focuses on attempts to arrest the president of Sudan on charges of genocide in Darfur; I tell that story through the Court's battle in the United Nations Security Council. Hypocrisy in the corridors of power is filmed in contrast to the death and destruction in Darfur. The United Nations can have long debates about how to stop genocide, but the victims in Darfur cannot wait for the power brokers to work through the issue, and the charismatic, concerned Prosecutor of the ICC must act quickly.

The title The Reckoning has three meanings: the reckoning of a world trying to bring the worst perpetrators of massive crimes to justice; the reckoning of the International Criminal Court becoming an effective global arbiter of justice; and the reckoning with the international community over whether or not we have the political will to carry out the arrest warrants and fulfill the mandate of this new Court.

Pamela Yates, Director

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Subtitles
  • Resources for Educators

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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