Beauty pageant contestants, all dolled up and ready to strut their stuff, have long provided the world with amusement in their naïve (not to mention completely clichéd and vacuously idealistic) call for world peace. But could they be onto something?
Well, according to Egyptian filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, they are on the right track. The first ever Pangea Day, the brainchild of Noujaim will be celebrated on May 10 in the hopes of paving the way to uniting people across the globe through the power of film. Named after the original supercontinent when all the continents were joined together, Pangea Day is a four-hour synchronised film festival in the vein of Live 8 but with a bit of YouTube thrown in showcasing 24 short films created for the event from amateur filmmakers around the world.
Venues in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai and Rio de Janiero will be linked for a live programme of films, music and speakers simulcast in seven languages online. The event will look to attract more than 500 million viewers worldwide - online, on TV and even on mobile phones.
The event was conceived as a kind of World Cup of storytelling after Noujaim was awarded the 2006 TED Prize, an annual cash prize handed out to creative individuals and their granting of one ‘wish to change the world’. If all this sounds like something out of ‘Genie in a Bottle’,
Noujaim believes her wish for achieving world peace through the medium of film is achievable.
Like all revolutionary ideas, this one is simple. When it comes to the hows and whys, the Pangea Day web site (www.pangeaday.org) states it in the simplest of terms. “In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that - to help people see themselves in others - through the power of film.”
Noujaim, who won acclaim in 2004 for ‘Control Room’, her documentary about Al Jazeera, believes that once you meet someone and laugh with them,
it is much harder to kill them. And it is with that thought that Pangea Day was created, hoping to harness as much simultaneous global goodwill with the short films that will be broadcast.
In an interview with the New York Sun, Noujaim says that after calling for short film submissions months ago, more than 2,500 poured in from 100 countries. In addition, collaborating with Nokia, they distributed video-enabled mobile phones to people in conflict zones and disadvantaged areas allowing them to participate in the competition.
“We asked people to think in terms of universal themes, with as little language as possible. We sought out movies that death with universal issues of love and anger and hate and humiliation and parenthood. It’s all about providing a common basis, to come to understand the world as another sees it,” she says.
“It stuck me, if you show a movie in two parts of the world, the film can become a common link between two people who otherwise have nothing in common,” she added. In the build up to the event, Pangea Day organisers encouraged people from different countries to make short clips with people singing another country’s national anthem. The clips, available on the web site and on YouTube, have Australians singing the Lebanese anthem, Kenyans singing India’s and the French singing the American ‘Star Spangled Banner’.
“Some might see it as a small drop in the bucket, but it’s an important step in organising people around sharing ideas. How do you have people meet each other if you can’t force people to travel? You have them travel, and meet, through film,” Noujaim says. And as for what happens after May 10, the hope is to inspire people to continue the message by encouraging talented filmmakers to take bigger strides in their careers and organising their own communities to further connect until the next Pangea Day takes place.
Movies alone can’t change the world. But the people who watch them can.
A NEW WAY TO SEE THE WORLD
Speakers slated to give talks during the celebration include Queen Noor of Jordan, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Sir Bob Geldof, Karen Armstrong and Iranian rock phenomenon Hypernova. The movies will be streamed live online in Arabic, English, French, German, Hindi, Portuguese and Spanish. Log onto www.pangeaday.org on May 10 to be one of the millions to witness how film can bring the world together and a new way to see it. (source)
LINK to Pangea Day Website to view May 10, 2008
Video: http://www.ted.com In this hopeful talk, 2006 TED Prize winner Jehane Noujaim unveils her wish: a global acceptance of diversity, mediated through the power of film. The first step? Getting people to understand each other. In 2003, Noujaim gained access to both sides of the story of the Iraq war for her film Control Room, a dichotomy she illustrates with provocative clips of Al Jazeera journalist Sameer Khader and U.S. press officer Josh Rushing. Noujaim ends by outlining her plans for Pangea Day, an event in which people all over the world can watch the same films at the same time. (Contains strong language.)