Jordan’s Queen Noor goes Hollywood -- for a cause

In a town known for famous moviemakers, Queen Noor of Jordan is something of an anomaly in Hollywood -- until you consider the movie she has helped make.

Queen Noor, the widow of King Hussein of Jordan, sat down with a small group of reporters at a private luncheon on Friday to discuss the documentary, “Countdown to Zero” about nuclear bomb proliferation, which hits U.S. theaters in July.

As founding leader of Global Zero, a movement aimed at phasing out nuclear weapons around the world, Queen Noor served as a special consultant on the film in her first foray into Hollywood moviemaking.

“For me, this is a whole new world,” she said over lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills -- a favorite haunt of Hollywood celebrities.

She was joined by producers Lawrence Bender and Diane Weyermann of Participant Media, who were both part of the team responsible for Oscar-winning global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“Countdown to Zero” is a 90-minute documentary written and directed by Lucy Walker that explores the history of the atomic bomb and today’s threat of nuclear proliferation.

The documentary features interviews with the likes of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, ex-US President Jimmy Carter, one-time USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and the late former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, among many others.

With nine nations possessing nuclear weapons the world is in danger of an explosion, whether through an act of terrorism, a failed diplomatic mission, a technical glitch or human error, and Queen Noor sees the movie as an effective way to get that message across to broader audiences.

“Film is the most powerful tool in the arsenal of so many of us -- not just Global Zero -- but others in the world that are collaborating with us on this issue,” she said. “I’ve given a million speeches but it’s the visual images, the storytelling” that can impact mass audiences.

As a consultant on the film, Queen Noor’s input was invaluable, said Bender and Weyermann.

When she felt the first version that screened at January’s Sundance Film Festival was too “American-centric,” she offered suggestions on images and archival footage that might make it more accessible to global audiences.

“Queen Noor’s perspective became important in the tweaking of this movie,” said Bender. “She brought a global perspective and gave the film a more international feel.”

Bender said Queen Noor functioned almost as a type of producer, but the Queen, however, demurred at that thought.

“I look at this from the perspective of trying to promote understanding between the Middle East, the Arab and Muslim worlds and the West over the past 35 years,” she said.

Queen Noor explained that preventing and resolving conflicts and promoting peace in the Middle East have long been causes she supports, as well as development that provides hope and opportunity for people.

“That is how we achieve security -- by giving people the freedom to engage in the decision-making that affects our lives,” she said. “This issue (of nuclear weapons) is one that affect all of those areas.”

“Countdown to Zero” begins its U.S. release on July 23rd in New York City and Washington D.C.