Director: Karen Stokkendal Poulsen

Writer: Karen Stokkendal Poulsen

Country: Denmark, Serbia and Montenegro, UK, Serbia, Belgium

Runtime: 58 mins

When newspapers first began to publish the revelations that had been passed to them by Wikileaks, there were many who remarked that international diplomacy would be impossible unless those involved could be assured of secrecy. However, in what must be one of the most important negotiations of recent times, the peace settlement between Serbia and Kosovo, writer and director Karen Stokkendal Poulsen managed to obtain both fly-on-the-wall access and interviews with the key participants. The psychological warfare between the two sides, and the steady hand of EU Chief Negotiator Robert Cooper in steering them towards an agreement, make The Agreement a fascinating and gripping documentary.

The negotiations take place in a small office in Denmark, where Cooper wonders if it is best to sit looking towards the window where you can view Danish architecture, or to sit facing the wall upon which hangs a Goya painting of two cats engaged in a stand-off. Kosovan negotiator Edita Tahiri wonders, with heavy metaphorical intent, if perhaps one cat has not recognised the other. Serbian negotiator Borko Stefanovic wonders if one cat might end up dead.

It is the blond Tahiri who, superficially at least, presents the more friendly figure, but there is no mistaking the steeliness behind her smile. Stefanovic, for much of the time, is harder to read, rarely smiling, and is the more easily provoked of the two, at one point launching into a rant about how he objects to being lectured. However, at other times Stefanovic seems genuinely warm, and you wonder how much both negotiators must be feeling the weight of expectations on their shoulders. We get a glimpse into the backgrounds of Tahiri and Stefanovic, too. Tahiri, more directly involved in politics when she was younger, had spent a period of time hiding in the basement of a house during the Serbia-Kosovo conflict. Stefanovic had played in a rock band called Generation Without A Future, for which he has to put up with a certain amount of ribbing in the Serbian parliament.

Roger Cooper is every bit the experienced urbane diplomat, though not beyond displaying irritation when he considers that one side is behaving badly. He notes that at the point when important negotiations are settled, it is always late at night when everyone is tired and no-one cares anymore; thus, they don’t realise that they are making history.

It is quite an achievement that writer-director Karen Stokkendal Poulsen should have managed to capture this piece of history.

Rating: 8/10

Shown at the 2014 Raindance Film Festival

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