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Ecofilms opens with Echoes of War

Ecofilms, the International Films & Visual Arts Festival in Rhodes, Greece, opened its 6th edition with the screening of Echoes of War by Joop van Wijk from The Netherlands.
As he presented his film to the audience of the Rodon open air theater, the Dutch director stressed on what a paradox it is to open a festival on ecology with a film about war. But the choice quite reflects the spirit of the festival, which is to tackle ecology from a wide range of perspectives, and to see it as the preservation of the place we live in, the outer place and the inner place as well.

His film, which deeply moved but also surprised the audience with its style, follows small groups of children in Afghanistan, Colombia, Sierra Leone and New York City who all have lost a parent either in a barbaric war or during the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. They share their feelings as teachers read them a short children book by Dr. Nancy Baron called A Little Elephant Finds His Courage. The story tells how a young elephant comes to gradually realize that his father will never come back home as he was killed in the forest by other animals who suddenly turned into violent beasts for no reason. He will have to support his surviving mother and will ultimately find the courage to do so in the memories of his father. This story, beautifully told on screen through an animation by young Dutch artist Liesbeth Worm, is the backbone of the film as it helps the children to talk about the different stages they went through, from denial to acceptance. In this perspective, the narrative works like the children stories described by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in his book The Meaning of Fairy Tales. It uses stereotyped situations children can universally recognize, and shows a path to help them grow in spite of everything.
The director first discovered this children story in a camp of Sudanese refugees in Northern Ghana where he realized its wide appeal to kids there and its capacity to induce a discussion about their feelings without being too intrusive. The reactions of the kids on screen are extremely mature and everything shows they have lost their innocence. Of course, they play with toys for their age, but these toys are skites with huge threatening eyes painted on them or Playmobil characters carrying guns.

The style of the editing, which surprises at first, is also here to support the story. In fact, it continually mixes images of the children shot in Afghanistan, Colombia, Sierra Leone and New York City, just as if they were filmed in a same and unique place, although we obviously know they were not. In the first minutes, we don’t even realize where the director is taking us, since the conflicts are at first neither identified nor geographically located. Yet, just as an echo repeats endlessly the same word from different locations, we finally realize that all these children share the same universal suffering caused by war or terrorism. It could in fact just have happened anywhere.

Olivier Delesse

Full coverage of Ecofilms 2006 on :

Ecofilms kicks off in Rhodes, Greece
Ecofilms features this year some shorts with outstanding aesthetic qualities
Ecofilms opens with Echoes of War
Ecofilms rewards the short film Eco Dharma
Ecofilms pays a tribute to Jonas Mekas
Ecofilms awards its Golden Deers

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