Pangea Day: connecting the world through film

0 Posted by - May 20, 2008 - Blog

Pangea Day was a global event of short films, music and speakers ounded by Jehane Noujaime, TED Prize winner and director of the award winning film Control Room. It was broadcast live in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro. It was also shown at grassroots screenings in cities, communities, and private homes around the world and was streamed live on the internet. Most people don't know other cultures or societies and some don't even know their neighbors. Noujaime states, "By sharing stories, we've started the process of turning strangers into friends." She believes that if people from all around the globe start trying to understand each other, then we can move a few steps closer to world peace. Since many aren't willing and others aren't able to travel, Noujaime concludes that we can use film to share stories and overcome the obstacle of distance.

The first part of the program seemed a bit light, like it was oversimplifying major social and political issues. It focused on broad themes such as love, hope, anger, dreams. However, as the program continued, the content became increasingly powerful. It seems as if the organizers purposefully chose to use apolitical/palatable material to captivate many different types of people and prepare them for the climax: the critical perspectives of the conflicts in Iraq and Israel/Palestine. After short films and music by Rokia Traore and Gilberto Gil, came Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin of Parents' Circle Families Forum. Both are bereived family members who spoke about the reality of the Israeli occupation and its consequences.

Damelin's son was shot by a Palestinian freedom fighter when he was serving in the Occupied Territories. During Pangea Day, she asked for all people to "look for a way through mutual understanding and empathy to live a life free of violence." Awwad is a Palestinian refugee who lost his brother and was wounded by a settler. He boldly stated that, "occupying a nation by building walls and barriers will not secure another nation. Maybe this will bring a psychological solution, but it will not bring a human being solution – that people can live together or side by side." He also sent a message out to all Jewish people stating, "you are not my enemy; your fear is my enemy. I am attacking today your fear, so please don't throw your problems to the sea because those problems learn how to swim. You cannot ignore the whole reality by taking a side or being right. I remember that Gandhi once said that there is no way for peace, peace is the way. You first do peace without any condition."

Next was a short film made by Noujaime about Combatants for Peace (ex-IDF soldiers and ex Palestinian militants working together to end the region's cycle of violence). It told the stories of Yonatan Shapira and Bassam Aramin, two founders of the organization, and how they came together to work against the Israeli occupation. They appeared live from the London stage. Shapira, an Israeli Air Force pilot who refused to fly missions in occupied territories, mentioned that coincidentally on this same day his mother and brother were shot by Israeli soldiers while participating in a peaceful protest in Shufa, West Bank to remove a roadblock obstructing the Palestinian villagers' freedom of movement, and, thus, the peace movement had a long way to go. The fact that these four voices from the region were heard internationally without interruption was an incredible achievement in itself.

Despite the lack of publicity for an event of this scale, the fact that several of the MCs seemed uber mainstream and uninformed about world events, and the abysmal post event news coverage, it was a total success for the first run. The intentions are for Pangea Day to recur every 2 years. With Noujaime's vision and the mass of people who have mobilized behind it, the 2010 event should have even more of a worldwide impact and resonance. Visit the event's website to find out more or view selected films and highlights.

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