HBO Documentary Films: THE DIPLOMAT


Overview: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke died unexpectedly from heart complications on Dec. 13, 2010. Shortly afterward, his eldest son, David Holbrooke, attempted the seemingly impossible: capturing the legacy of his influential father “to understand him better in death,” while traveling across the globe to reveal a behind-the-scenes view of U.S. foreign policy. Written and directed by David Holbrooke, the insightful and revealing documentary THE DIPLOMAT chronicles the political and personal life of the larger-than-life U.S. ambassador whose career spanned 50 years of American foreign policy, ranging from Vietnam, to Bosnia and Kosovo, to Afghanistan.

THE DIPLOMAT draws on access to Richard Holbrooke’s personal archives, which include rare photos, letters, journals and exclusive audio recordings that are being heard for the first time, illustrating his public versus private personas and creating a sensitive portrait of fatherhood, ambition and the force required to effect change in the world. His career took him all over the world, often at the expense of family.


Expectations: I’m hoping for a more historical look at the man’s professional career and no so much the personal home & family life that David H. clearly wants to add. I guess I am really hoping for a balance of both perspectives, but we will see if the film leans one way or the other. However, having said that I am intrigued why the film maker made this chronicle after his father’s death. As quoted above he wanted to understand him better, wouldn’t that have been better achieved while his father was alive? What strained relationship existed for that not to happen?  


Gut Reaction: Thankfully, for me there was a nice balance of both sides of Holbrooke Sr.’s life, so my first question was easily answered. My secoDocs_Diplomat-202x300nd question also got answered. It seems Mr. H. was hardly at home and when he was he was came across as brusque. That missed plenty of missed opportunity for David and sibling to get to know their Dad. He was to eager and content being a mover and shaker in D. C. and across the globe. What was good for democracy wasn’t good for the family.

But, Richard Holbrooke was clearly needed in those hot spots and situation rooms. It is proven by all that has been observed in this film and what politicos and journalists have said about him over the years and right up to his death. He might have been tenacious and difficult but, he had a good head on his shoulders and wasn’t afraid to use it. It was interesting to relive his historical significance and even learn how that impacted the family.


In Conclusion: Richard Holbrooke’s life was an exciting, high-power ride to its end. His life is written in history’s pages and in this film, THE DIPLOMAT. It is a shame his family didn’t really fully get to know him until this documentary was shot and pieced together. They should be proud of their paternity and I think they are.


Next Week: Encoring on 11.09 at 6:45pm is WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY which we reviewed. The next week, 11.16 is the debut of THE LATIN EXPLOSION: A NEW AMERICA which is a celebration of the Latin culture boom in the U. S.

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