Citizen Action Monitor

When children are dying of hunger, silence is not an option

A scene from the movies to stir the soul of any citizen activist

No 679 Posted by fw, February 19, 2013

This is one of those “If only I could do that, say that” scenes from the movies. Gina, a young Scottish woman, does the unthinkable – she interrupts the British PM’s G8 dinner speech to deliver a passionate plea to G8 delegates to do the right thing – take action on third world debt and poverty in Africa.

The complete text of Gina’s plea for action follows the video clip from the movie, The Girl in the Café. But, first, to put the scene in context, here is a plot synopsis.

The girl in cafePlot — The film tells the story of painfully introverted Lawrence (Bill Nighy), a career civil servant working for the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Ken Stott). By chance, Lawrence meets Gina (Kelly Macdonald), a much younger woman, in a London café. On impulse, Lawrence invites Gina to accompany him to Reykjavík, Iceland where he will be participating in a G8 summit conference. At a gala dinner affair, Gina boldly interrupts the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Corin Redgrave) over the issue of third world debt and poverty in Africa — much to Lawrence’s embarrassment and the anger of his boss. Nevertheless, realizing that Gina’s candid comments to the PM were, in general, right, an emboldened Lawrence passionately tries to persuade the Chancellor and his colleagues to do something about the issues at the closing meeting of the G8. As it turns out, Gina’s speech inspires the delegates to, finally, do the right thing.

The clip — Gina Confronts the PM — In the following 7:25-minute emotionally powerful video clip, we see Gina interrupt the Prime Minister and say what we would all probably wish we could say to those in power, but daren’t. Later, timid Lawrence, inspired by Gina’s boldness, breaks out of his shell to challenge his colleagues – “I think that if we were the men we all dreamed we’d be when we were all young ,,, we wouldn’t compromise the actual lives of people we will never meet just because we’d never have to explain to them face-to-face, why we didn’t think it was worth fighting to stop them dying.


Prime Minister — Five years ago the world made a series of the most magnificent promises. And we have determined to use this conference seriously to indent the most extreme curses of poverty in the world today. We shall not let them out of our sights even if we may not yet have the power to fulfill them all.

Delegates and dinner guests — Hear, hear. (applause)

Gina — That’s not true.

[Dinner guests react in stunned silence]

Gina — That’s not true.

Prime Minister — I’m sorry, madam but heckling isn’t really a tradition at these gatherings.

Delegates and guests — (nervous laughter)

Gina — What are the traditions, then? Well-crafted compromise and just sort of ignoring the poor?

Prime Minister — Perhaps we can talk about this later?

Gina — I doubt it. I imagine I’ll be thrown out later, so it’s probably got to be now. I don’t know how much the rest of you ladies know about what’s going on, but my friend [Lawrence] here tells me that while we are eating a hundred million children are nearly starving. There are just millions of kids who’d kill for the amount of food that fat old me left on the side of my plate. Children who are then so weak, they’ll die if a mosquito bites them. And so they do die. One every three seconds. [Snaps her fingers] There they go. [Snaps her fingers again]. And another one. Anyone who has kids knows that every mother and father in Africa must love their children as much as they do. And to watch your kids die, to watch them die, and then to die yourself in trying to protect them that’s not right. And tomorrow eight of the men sitting round this table actually have the ability to sort this out by making a few great decisions. And if they don’t someday, someone else will. And they’ll look back on us lot and say:

“People were actually dying in their millions unnecessarily in front of you on your TV screens. What were you thinking? You knew what to do to stop it happening and you didn’t do those things. Shame on you.”

So that’s what you have to do tomorrow. Be great instead of being ashamed. It can’t be impossible. It must be possible.

[Gina is escorted out of the room]

Prime Minister — As I was saying before I was so cogently interrupted…

[That evening, in a exterior scene, Gina is being escorted to a guest house where she will spend the evening before flying back to England in the morning. Back at the hotel we see Lawrence, alone, on his bed, followed by a camera jump to Gina, alone, on her bed in the guest house].

[Next morning at the hotel, Lawrence, the Chancellor, and three other senior policy analysts, who also work for the Chancellor, are discussing tactics for the decisive meeting of the G8 delegates].

George [Lawrence’s colleague] — Right. We have a tiny way to go on items seven and thirteen but it looks like we’re gonna make more progress on subsidies than we hoped. As for the now-infamous Millennium Goals, obviously it has not been easy, but I believe there’s a good deal in sight and we should go ruthlessly for that. Anyone got anything to say on anything before we head in?

Lawrence — It’s not a good deal. It’s a deal, it’s not a good deal.

Chancellor – Ahh, I think, in the circumstances we’re going to probably, unfortunately have to listen to your opinion with circumspection, Lawrence.

Lawrence — I know. But I feel I have to speak anyway. I intend to resign my position after today because I feel I’ve behaved foolishly. And from now on would be treated quite rightly like a cuckold and a fool. So let me just say that I think the woman in question was, in broad terms, correct. I think we get into the habit of always compromising and therefore, we are always compromised. We work and work all our lives and we don’t get what we’re working for. And I think that if we were the men we all dreamed we’d be when we were all young we’d be doing deals on all the other things and going home to explain our little failures to our own countrymen, but we wouldn’t compromise the actual lives of people we will never meet just because we’d never have to explain to them face-to-face, why we didn’t think it was worth fighting to stop them dying.

George — Thank you for that, Lawrence. As things stand then yes, perhaps it will be better if you left us to these final discussions.

[Exit Lawrence]


The Girl in the Café is a British made-for-television drama film directed by David Yates, and written by Richard Curtis. It was originally screened on BBC TV on June 25, 2005, and on the same day in the US on cable TV. The film was a winner at the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Made for Television Movie.


  • A video of the haunting opening theme music from The Girl in the CaféCold Water written and performed by Damien Rice, accompanied by Lisa Hannigan, builds to a crescendo.
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This entry was posted on February 19, 2013 by in creative protest and tagged , , .
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