Hollywood on the Potomac
“I will refrain from a whole bunch of puns about the movie Titanic and the ocean,” joked Secretary of State John Kerry to an eager crowd packing the auditorium of the State Department. “See, I just got away with that………..”
Kerry knew that the policy wonks and activists on hand were happy to see him during the two day “Our Oceans” conference being held by the department, but that the upcoming speaker was easily about to steal his spotlight.
Cue Leonardo DiCaprio: The dashing actor and playboy who is memorable for his roles in The Wolf of Wall Street, The Great Gatsby and of course, James Cameron’s oceanic epic, Titanic. DiCaprio was on hand though to show a much more serious side though than anything to do with his films–he was invited to speak because of his dedicated commitment to the oceans and wildlife through the work of his group, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
He said that his first splash into philanthropy came about when he was inspired to try and help save the Florida manatee and that since then, the plot has set itself.
“I’ve learned that with each passing day, so many of our aquatic species are in jeopardy. Not because of nature’s unpredictability but because of human activity” he explained to a room filled with bureaucrats, legislators, military and scientists–and yet nobody could look away.
It was a journey into the Fantastic World of Fiction and Film with Mario Vargas Llosa, Alessandro Baricco and Vittorio Storaro that brought together three world renowned artists at Georgetown University’s historic Gaston Hall, an exclusive itinerary made possible by a collaboration between Georgetown University’s Italian Research Institute and The The Embassy of Italy.
The three artists were: Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa (The Greenhouse, The Feast of the Goat, The War of the End of the World), popular novelist and essayist Alessandro Baricco (Silk, Ocean Sea, Novecento: Pianist), and Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Reds, The Last Emperor) – all of whom joined forces for a symposium about the art of story telling and filmmaking.
“The sharing of ideas by these three acclaimed literary and visual artists will be a source of inspiration to the audience. This conference is part of a journey-based series of events organized by the Embassy, including performances, exhibits and movie screenings,” explained Ambassador of Italy to the United States Claudio Bisogniero.
Mario Vargas Llosa addressed the topic of Boccaccio on Stage: a Journey into the World of the Imagination based on his latest work, a theatrical adaptation from the Decameron. “Boccaccio’s stories transport readers (and their listeners) to a world of fantasy, but that world has some deep roots in the reality of experience. Thus, in addition to allowing them to share a dream, it educates and instructs them to better understand the real world, daily life, in all of its adversity and magnificence, on what goes badly or very badly in it and especially on what could and should be better,” he noted.
“And of course there was the CIA publication review board that I need to be responsible to as well,” she added regarding obligations to the agency pertaining to secrets and all. “Even if I write a cookbook it needs to go to them.”
Both are best-selling authors and US intelligence experts: Ignatius, a prize-winning columnist and author who has covered the Middle East and the CIA for more than 25 years, and Plame, author and twenty-year CIA Clandestine Service veteran.
They discussed their experiences in the world of international intelligence and the future of spycraft in a post-Snowden era, and shared anecdotes about the people and places that have inspired their writings.The Atlantic’s Editor-at-Large, Steve Clemons, moderated the conversation.