The world needs peace, harmony, and non-violence. Irrespective of race, creed, religion and other aspects of life, the world could hypothetically and ideally be treated as a global village, where peace and harmony should reign supreme, not otherwise; where neighbors should live with each other, with understanding and compassion. Although there may be certain dissimilarities or differences within the communities living in this global village, but peace should be the ultimate goal pursued by everyone. Peace has many forms, but it all flows back to the center—a center of understanding and resolution.
Art and culture, in their mellowed form and in their quietude can be harbingers of peace. Throughout the year 2014, there were reports from various parts of the world, about peace efforts, which were developed and encouraged. Many major or minor art and culture related events or people throughout the year (or a mix), which or who have caused rejoicing and harmony within any part of the entire global village, for whatever period of time, therefore, deserve mention and should be applauded. The field of art, music, cinema, cartoons, and even simple peace forums, conferences, turned into grounds where several enterprises continued their ongoing efforts.
Many people associated with these ventures were artists, authors, writers, poets, musicians, calligraphers, cartoonists, filmmakers, organizers, or anyone (even a community tailored group)—who tried to make a difference by encouraging non-violence and serenity within the world and also brought focus on peace related issues. Even individual world-cinematic ventures or pieces of art, craft, music or dance that were made or anything creative or culturally inclined had peace as its core message.
In the following passages are mentioned three peace initiatives from 2014. They are representative of every other genuine effort from 2014, made toward spreading peace in the world. One of them is a US-based film festival—because films and documentaries have the ability to reach out to everyone. The second is an organisation dedicated to cartoons and their ability to express the futility of wars with subtlety. The third is a musical endeavour illustrative of how music has the power to create a tremendous rippling peace-effect.
<strong>Global peace film festival 2014, Florida</strong>
The executive director of the film festival, Nina Streich, shares her thoughts and information from the festival with us. “The Global Peace Film Festival (GPFF) was founded in mid-2003. The first festival was held in December 2003. It was the idea of the initial founder who wanted to have a film festival dedicated to peace in response to the Iraq War. I wanted to make sure it was not a film festival about or against war (or more specifically the Iraq War) but presented a positive vision of the many aspects of peace, from personal and family to community, environmental and global.
The original mission statement for the GPFF is very simple: to use the power of the motion picture to further the goal of peace on earth. The name is meant to draw attention to the importance of civic engagement for a more peaceful world, using film and creative media as a vehicle for this discussion. One of the goals of the GPFF is to encourage active engagement from the audience. We program films that inspire the audience to do something positive regarding the issue(s) in the film that they see.
One can see descriptions of all the films in the 2014 festival in the program book for the entire festival. Films from over 23 countries were included in the festival. Something that all the films have in common is the commitment of the filmmakers to tell stories about important issues that are both entertaining and educational. The entire 2014 program was well received.
Some of the films that received the best responses were “1971”, a film about eight ordinary Americans who broke into an FBI field office and stole hundreds of files. It has great relevance today regarding privacy issues, and the attendance of Bonnie Raines, one of the subjects of the film was extremely well received. The opening night film was “CinemAbility,” a comprehensive and entertaining look at how disability has been portrayed in American cinema and television. “Beyond the Divide” is a moving film about the power of peace building, bringing together a Vietnam veteran and a peace activist to find common ground.
“Every Three Seconds” introduces the audience to five ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to alleviate suffering and extreme poverty around the world. And the Academy Award nominated short documentary “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”, takes the audience behind the walls of one of America’s oldest maximum security prisons to tell the story of the final months of a terminally ill prisoner and the hospice volunteers, themselves prisoners, who care for him.
The 2015 Global Peace Film Festival will take place in Orlando and Winter Park, FL, from September 29th - October 4th. There is also an online part of the festival so people anywhere in the world can watch a selection of films.” —Nina Streich, Executive Director and Creator, Global Peace Film Festival
Cartooning for Peace, 2014
Cartooning for Peace 2014 - This organization was set up in 2006 by the famous French Editorial Cartoonist Plantu and the then Secretary General of the UN, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr. Kofi Annan. The organization was created to establish the freedom of the press and to facilitate the creative expression of cartoonists from around the world. The group has carried out several exhibitions in parts of France, Switzerland and other parts of the world in 2014 and through the medium of cartoons, editorial cartoonists have portrayed their sentiments on wars, bloodshed and violence. Some of these expositions were given names, to depict the themes of peace the creations aimed to quietly convey, such as, “What a damned foolishness war is!” and “Every State of War”.
The events organized by the association also allowed editorial cartoonists to come together under one roof and gave cartoonists worldwide, freedom to subtly inform audiences of calmer possibilities and of the repercussions of war, and therefore, perpetuate peace through cartoons. It is this particular effort from the affiliation that is worth lauding, where they stress on how terrible war can be. The organization also has other functions intended at empowering cartoonists and their journalistic work. Any other aspects, those related to satire and political viewpoints of the group would suit a different page altogether though.
Shanti, a Journey of Peace, 2014
“Shanti explores the meaning and message of peace through multi-layered choral music with a multi-ethnic choir—with a ‘new soundscape’ that of raga-based Indian music complemented with a traditional western choral sound. I started writing work for combined choruses and building such groups back in 1996. Shanti premiered in 2004 with a 120 member choir. I founded the first Indian American choir in the US in Cincinnati in 1994. Since then I have founded many such Indian diaspora choirs in cities across North America, and now the latest in Holland.
The idea of these choirs is to create choral music based on the raga traditions of India, building a community choir using the talents of the Indian American Diaspora; creating a stage where ancient Indian musical and other traditions interact with classical western art; bringing communities together through world music; pivoting the idea of Universal Peace—and creating awareness about ancient Indian ideas of peace and interconnectedness
In 2014, we performed our flagship program Shanti - a Journey of peace—celebrating its 10th anniversary in Cincinnati with a cast of 250 and an audience of 2000 in a spectacular performance. We built a new choir in Atlanta and performed Shanti with a 200 member cast and an audience of about 1000. We also performed ′Chitram - A Portrait of India’ showcasing the philosophy behind the diversity seen in India—in Houston, to an audience of 1200.
I also wrote a brand new work ′Sangam To Silicon Valley’ in 2014—in Tamil—built a new choir in Chicago—and performed this at the annual convention of the Tamil Nadu Foundation to an audience of over 1000. Created ′Ragas in Symphony’ and performed it in the Netherlands—this was a collaboration between the newly founded Surinamese choir (2013) and the Dario Fo choir and the Residentie Orkest in a very prestigious venue in Hague.
I also mentored the Tampa Indian choir that I founded in 2009 and performed ′Sharad′ in Tampa—celebrating the message of ‘detachment’ or ‘letting go’ as seen by the mature leaves in the autumn season. The audience response was phenomenal. Each of these shows had nonstop standing ovations. The orchestration included: Indian and Western choir. Western classical orchestra had: Strings (violins, viola, cello, bass, woodwinds, and percussion), also, sitar, tabla, veena, mridangam and others. Each of these performances was choreographed to dances from around India.
My projects facilitate the interaction of diverse international groups through music—by making the theme of universal peace central to all productions—they also celebrate threads of commonality across culture. We get to see that we have more in common than we think we do! There has been interest in re-creating the Shanti experience in Texas and DC. I will be conducting workshops for children culminating in such choral concerts in Atlanta and DC.” —Kanniks Kannikeswaran, Composer and Conductor, Cincinnati
Several other such harmonious organizations tried to foster tolerance and acceptance throughout the world in the year 2014. Their work is of immense value, irrespective of scale, for the relief and support they bring to those in need of a peaceful existence, especially those living in unhealthy and disharmonious conditions or to those in need. As the focus is brought to serenity and a more tolerant world is encouraged, a gradual but definite growth in peace can be hoped for, in the coming years, for our beautiful global community.
Author Website: www.trishabhattacharya.com
Photo Credit: Michele Plant Kroupa
Photo Details: (From left to right) Global Peace Film Festival Board member and Co-Executive Producer of “Every Three Seconds” Mark Dixon, Co-Executive Producer of “Every Three Seconds” Sheri Heitker-Dixon, GPFF Executive Director Nina Streich, and “Every Three Seconds” Director Daniel Karslake.