The term reconciliation carries such a chord of optimism; it conjures images of issues resolved and friendships re-established. But it’s usually wrenching work.
It can also be painful, yet cathartic, to watch. A Washington, D.C.-based organization called Search for Common Ground wanted to demonstrate creative ways of resolving conflict, and they did so through a creative medium: film. The organization held its first film festival in October with eight powerful documentaries that address themes of conflict resolution and reconciliation.
The films range in style, length, and structure, but their cumulative effect forces us to see all the angles of conflict. Not only do we watch others navigate the hard path of forgiveness, history, and truth, we have to wonder ourselves about the nature of reconciliation: What is it really? Where does it take place? The films move viewers beyond viewing to dialogue, one of the festival’s goals.
The films will travel for one year to universities and colleges throughout the country as part of Search for Common Ground’s mission to promote peaceful, cooperative approaches to conflict resolution. In May, the European Centre for Common Ground in Brussels will host the film festival, after which the films will travel to European universities and international organizations. For more information and a listing of colleges that will host the film series, see www. sfcg.org.
Long Night’s Journey into Day: South Africa’s Search for Truth and Reconciliation, directed by Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman. The 94-minute documentary looks at four groups of people making their way through the truth and reconciliation process, including the family of Amy Biehl. The film won best documentary at the 2000 Sundance Festival. (Iris Film/Cinemax Reel Life, 2000)
Just a Little Red Dot, directed by Mitra Sen. A fifth-grader from Sri Lanka moves to Canada and her classmates are curious about—and initially make fun of—the red dot on her forehead. But soon all of the fifth graders are wearing dots and learning about insensitivity and negative attitudes. (Sandalwood Productions, 1996)
Regret to Inform: A Journey in Search of Truth, directed by Barbara Sonneborn. Twenty years after the director’s husband was killed in Vietnam, she traveled there to search for answers about the war. Sonneborn shows the devastation war creates on a personal level by weaving together stories of widows from the United States and Vietnam. (Sun Foundation Productions, 1998)
Forbidden Marriages in the Holy Land, directed by Michel Khleifi. A Palestinian musician living with an Israeli musicologist and a Jewish woman who converted to Islam to be with her husband are among the eight couples Khleifi interviews in his 66-minute documentary about those who chose love and not hate. (Sinibad Films, in association with Sourat Films and the New Media program of the European Union, 1995)
Peace of Mind: Coexistence Through the Eyes of Palestinian and Israeli Teens, directed by Mark Landsman. A group of Palestinian and Israeli teen-agers are given video cameras to record a year in their lives. The result is a 56-minute documentary that offers a personal look at the challenges each of them face in their volatile land. (Global Action Project, 1999)
Rain, directed by Ilan Yagoda. Yagoda, an Israeli filmmaker, interviews Arab villagers who were forced to leave their village in 1949 and the Jewish settlers who built Kibbutz Megido on the same piece of land. A very sensitive telling. (Israel Film Service, 1998)
Zegota, directed by Sy Rotter. Through archival footage and interviews, this 28-minute film tells the story of Zegota, an organization started by two Catholic woman to rescue Polish Jews and others escaping from Nazi control by provided hiding places, false identity documents, and financial help. (Documentaries International Film & Video Production, 1992)
Prelude to Kosovo: War and Peace in Bosnia and Croatia, directed by John Michalczyk. This 52-minute film covers the history of the conflict and the ideologies that resulted in ethnic cleansing, through graphic footage and interviews with religious and political figures. (Boston College and the Boston Theological Institute, 1999)
Molly Marsh, editor of CultureWatch, is an assistant editor of Sojourners.