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Post-Kony 2012 Directive: Get Back Behind the Camera!

16 April 2012 No Comment

Alia Rasheed

Alia Rasheed
Oman

“Film can be used as a tangible tool of peace and unity.  But transformative films have to be nurtured.  Filmmakers have to be nurtured.”

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Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Crash (2004), was once asked in an interview how he felt about the disappointing performance his 2007 film criticizing the Iraq war, In the Valley of Elah, had at the box office.  He simply responded, “You don’t do pictures because the audience is ready for them.  You do them because there’s something gnawing at you, something inside.”

Haggis’s words are indeed powerful and revelatory. It is no doubt that films hold a transformative power within their story lines, whether it is to shine a light on the dark side of the human mind or to corrupt it.  Regardless of their motive, they capture you, they challenge you.

Our world is currently going through a change in consciousness, a kind of awakening, if you will.  War and struggle are as prevalent as ever but the only difference between this generation and the ones that came before us is that we can choose to speak out against it, no matter whether you are rich, poor, young, old, man or woman…this is a change in consciousness.   And film, whether it is a feature, short, or documentary, is perhaps the most powerful communication medium of our time.  Movies are transformative when they operate at their best.  They transport us out of our egotistical minds and back into our souls to remind us who we truly are as a species.

But above all, film gives a voice to those who are often left unheard.  Invisible Children, the producers of the now infamous Kony 2012 video, or Just Vision, whose commitment to providing coverage to Palestinians and Israelis working together to build a sustainable peaceful future for coming generations has led them to create documentaries such as Budrus and My Neighborhood, and our very own  Peace X Peace, who have produced the video series Catalyst: Voices of Israeli and Palestinian Women, are but a few examples of a new wave of peace organizations who are furthering their cause through the camera lens.  Now, some may not personally agree with the approach or messages relayed through these films, but their power is undeniable.  Kony 2012 broke records by receiving over 100 million views in less than a week. But in recent weeks Invisible Children has received much criticism for inaccurate reporting of Ugandan political events, engaging high-profile American celebrities, and oversimplifying the political conflict in Uganda itself.  It has nonetheless brought an otherwise unfamiliar issue into the mainstream and into people’s awareness, and that’s where change happens…through debate, discussion, and action.

Here in the Arabian Gulf, film festivals have been emerging to give stage to young Arab film makers, including the Al-Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival, whose vision statement notably reads: ‘To make our festival an invitation…. to introduce different cultures from all over the world, foster better relationships through an exchange of experiences and knowledge thus creating a foundation of respect and understanding.”

Film can be used as a tangible tool of peace and unity.  But transformative films have to be nurtured.  Filmmakers have to be nurtured.  They have to be supported financially, they have to be given a space to showcase their work, their films have to be branded and promoted adequately to get into the mainstream, and they need recognition.  Movie theaters in the US are running into serious financial trouble.  Unfair and often one-sided financial contracts with movie studios force theaters to operate on a razor thin profit margin, which raises another point:  that cinemas, a film maker’s stage, also have to be protected.

Marcel Proust said, “Only through art can we get outside of ourselves and know another’s view of the universe, which is not the same as ours, and see landscapes which would otherwise have remained unknown to us like the landscape of the moon.” This is the power of art and its beautiful expression.  It dissolves barriers that separate adversaries.  It brings forth qualities that are true to our nature, such as love, kindness and compassion.  Our world lacks these qualities and is calling on us to express them – and cinema is the ideal, if not the definitive, artistic medium to do so.

With the war, famine, crime and injustice that are rampant in our world today, can we afford to look the other way?  Can we go on to live this way?  Don’t we, the common man and woman, have a voice too?  Don’t we have power?  Our children deserve a better world, a world where safety with security is not an anomaly, but a way of life.  And if films provide one avenue to create such change, can we not support it?  Can we afford not to?


The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

About the author:
Alia Rasheed was born and raised in the Sultanate of Oman. She moved to the United States after high school for her undergraduate studies. She holds two business degrees and has worked as an investment analyst for a major American investment bank. She left what most would call a “promising” career in the investment banking industry to pursue her true passion in film making and screen writing. She currently resides in Oman and is actively pursuing various independent film projects, particularly those targeting conflict resolution and peacebuilding. She also runs a nonprofit organization with two friends to showcase the work and talent of young upcoming Omani artists.

 

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