The Interpreter is a 2005 political thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, and Jesper Christensen. It is notable for being the first movie to have been shot inside the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
The movie opens in a dusty African landscape: the Republic of Matobo (a name from the Matobo National Park in Matabeleland Zimbabwe), where rebel leader Ajene Xola (Curtiss Cook) is driving two men, Simon and Philippe, to the abandoned Centennial Stadium. They briefly discuss how President Edmond Zuwanie (Earl Cameron)’s regime has ruthlessly exterminated most of the population, and intimidated the survivors into silence. Upon their arrival at the stadium, they discover that the informants are schoolboys, who point Ajene and Simon in the direction of corpses left by Zuwanie’s security apparatus, while Philippe stays in the car.
Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is an interpreter for the United Nations in New York City. Born in the United States to a British mother and white African father, she spent most of her life in her father’s homeland of Matobo (a stand-in for Zimbabwe), studied music in Johannesburg, linguistics at Sorbonne University, Paris, and various other European countries, and is a dual citizen of both Matobo and the United States (with the possibility of deriving British citizenship through her mother). Her diverse background leads to UN Security Chief Lee Wu (Clyde Kusatsu) wryly describing her as “being the UN”.
The U.N. is considering indicting Zuwanie, to stand trial in the International Criminal Court. Initially a liberator, over the past 20 years he has become as corrupt and tyrannical as the government he overthrew, and is now responsible for ethnic cleansing and other atrocities within Matobo. Zuwanie is soon to visit the U.N. and put forward his own case to the General Assembly, in an attempt to avoid the indictment.