George Clooney’s film The Monuments Men will provide a working model for UN peacekeepers sent to the Middle East to protect world heritage sites, says Italy culture minister
A UN mission involving peacekeepers being sent to world heritage sites to protect them from attacks by Islamist militants is to be modelled on a Hollywood film starring George Clooney.
After the destruction of treasured sites, including the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, Italy proposed the creation of “blue helmets of culture” to protect the world’s cultural heritage.
Some 53 countries, as well as permanent UN security council members, voted in favour of the proposal on Friday.
Now, Dario Franceschini, Italy’s cultural heritage minister, has revealed that the UN team will take inspiration from the 2014 blockbuster The Monuments Men, starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon.
The film, which is based on real events, tells the story of an unlikely Second World War platoon comprising museum directors, curators and art historians sent to rescue artistic treasures from Nazi thieves before they are destroyed or lost for ever.
“The Monuments Men model is what’s needed,” Mr Franceschini told Il Messaggero, an Italian daily.
The film is about “stopping the Nazis”, said Mr Franceschini, but the aim of the new mission is to “stop the destructive rampage of the terrorists.”
The minister cited the example of the prized sculpture of David by the Renaissance sculptor Donatello, which was covered by a stone construction during the Second World War to protect it from Adolf Hitler.
“I imagine interventions like this in certain cases,” he said.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has led a campaign of destruction against some of the Middle East’s most important heritage sites.
Photo: Rex Features
Mr Franceschini proposed the idea of “blue helmets of culture”, referring to the famous uniforms of UN peacekeeping troops, following the destruction of the ancient fortress city of Hatra in Iraq in March.
Islamist militants are also thought to be behind attacks on 10 religious and historic monuments in Timbuktu in Mali, another world heritage-listed site. Other cities, including Nimurd and Khorsabad, have also been destroyed.
Mr Franceschini said he would create a specialist art and antiquities police squad available to the peacekeepers.
The Monuments Men is loosely based on the true story of a group of men and women from the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) division of the Allied Armies.
Drawn from 13 nations, they had previously been museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects and teachers.
The group had a simple job description: protecting history’s cultural treasures. In the final year of the war and in the years that followed, they worked to find and restore more than five million artistic and cultural items stolen by the Nazis.