Several Hollywood actors through the years have tried to use their fame to change the world, or at least a government policy or two. And there has been no shortage of politicians who have sought to harness the megawattage of celebrity to push their policies. Few have pulled off this alchemy quite as effectively as Angelina Jolie and William Hague in their joint campaign for international action against mass rape in conflicts.
They have been collaborating since last May on a multipronged initiative, with projects ranging from shaming public officials into action to funding women's clinics and dispatching forensic experts to the Syrian borders, Libya, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
For the past four days, the film star and foreign secretary have visited waterlogged refugee camps near the frontlines around Goma, eastern DRC, meeting rape survivors, women's groups and doctors to publicise the effort before putting it on the G8 agenda this year.
Jolie said she had not wanted to have anything to do with governments that when she started to publicise the issue. Since then, she says, she has realised their money and power have their uses. Asked what she wanted to get out of the partnership with Her Majesty's Government, she replied straight away: "An end to impunity."
"There were hundreds of thousands of women raped during the Rwandan genocide. There are hundreds of thousands of people being raped in the Congo. Tens of thousands of women raped in Bosnia. God knows how many people raped in Syria," Jolie said in an interview with the Guardian on Hague's RAF plane, after thunderstorms had stopped a helicopter trip to a women's hospital, and officials plotted alternative itineraries.
"I would like them to know they are not alone and that violence against them is something the world will no longer stand for and it's not something they are expected to simply tolerate. I think they have been expected to do so and I think people have come to see rape in war as something that just happens, that is a part of war. We will no longer simply stand idly by."
The British foreign secretary flatly admits that it was Jolie's film, Land of Blood and Honey, that inspired his commitment to the cause. The film, Jolie's directing debut, is the very opposite of a Hollywood blockbuster. It is a gruelling depiction of the rape camps in Bosnia where up to 50,000 women were sexually abused. The cast is entirely Balkan, as is the dialogue, with subtitles. It was rapturously received in Sarajevo but barely seen anywhere else.
The aim, Jolie says, was to give the victims a voice and to move policy-makers, an oft-stated goal of political films. But on this occasion it does appear to have worked.
"It was when I saw Angelina's film that I decided we should launch a global initiative on this," Hague said. "When you get into the detail of it, it's too terrible not to do something about. What is the point of politics if you don't address such issues and, if your position in the world enables you to see and understand the sheer extent of the horror, then you have a responsibility to do something about it."
It is the ultimate odd couple pairing, of course, of the sort that films are made about: the resolutely unflashy northern Tory and a world-famous Tinseltown progressive. But, on this issue, their views are so closely aligned that after a few days' joint campaigning together they are finishing each other's sentences.
Jolie strongly backs Hague's decision to set up a team of about 70 British experts to deploy to conflict zones, including health experts, counsellors and police officers who can train local people to collect and store evidence of rape, the lack of which has help stymie war crimes prosecutions for sexual violence. The UK government is also funding locked evidence cabinets to keep the DNA evidence secure and cool.
"Evidence-collecting on the border is so crucial," Jolie said. "There is a backlog of cases, so to try to collect evidence and speak to the people during the situation [is vital], to give them assistance immediately after crisis, if you can't reach them during … to start to hear their voices and support them."
She points out that although there were up to 50,000 cases of rape in the Bosnian conflict, there have been only about 30 war crimes convictions for sexual crimes.
"The hope and dream is that the next time this happens, that somehow, during a crisis, during a war, it's known that if you abuse the women, if you rape the women, you will be held accountable for your actions. This will be a crime of war and … it won't be considered that you were simply swept up in mass hysteria and aggression," Jolie said. "And hopefully it will be prevented and the numbers will drop, and we won't have to do so much work in the future. It's a long, long road, but that is the goal."
There's a video at the Source as well that won't embed here.