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Silverdocs Documentary FF

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival taking place June 21-27, 2010 at the AFI Silver Theater


Building A Bridge To Peace

What one of the great benefits (and joys) of an event like the AFI-Discovery Channel Documentary Festival is the presentation of films that go behind the news headlines and offer a portrait of the complexity and urgency of political and social events. The simple idea behind many of the films here is that the more we know, the more we understand, the more we can do.

In the case of finding solutions to some of the world's most complicated issues, none is more pressing than the need to build peaceful bridges between peoples, instead of resorting to violence and endless conflict. In an initiative with the United States Institute of Peace, the Festival is presenting a special sidebar entitled "Peacebuilding On Screen". The films being presented offer unique perspectives on conflicts either well documented by the news media or rather obscure. Their common denominator is the urgent call to stop the violence and find new solutions that can breed harmony and understanding.

Five films are being presented in this special showcase, all followed by substantive panel discussions with leading experts (with Washington DC just down the street, the calibre of the speakers is remarkably high). In the US/Israel/Palestine co-production BUDRUS by Julia Bacha, one Palestinian village unites its citizenry and progressive Israelis to fight the destruction of their town by the Seperation Wall being built to keep both sides away from each other. The film demonstrates how the sturggles and triumphs that come from understanding mutual interests can be a powerful force in determining official state policy.

The Middle East is also th focus in the American documentary MY SO CALLED ENEMY by Lisa Goessels. Filmed over a seven year period, the film follows a group of teenage Israeli and Palestinian girls who are committed to finding a just solution to the conflict that continues to rage in both their homelands. The film illuminates the growing understanding and compassion that arises when political extremism is  put aside and shared human values come to the fore.

Conflicts in Africa receive scant attention from the international media so the public is not familiar with several current conflicts, some of which have been going on for decades. In WAR DON DON by Rebecca Richman Coen, the focus is on the long simmering conflict in Sierra Leone. The film tells the remarkable story of Issa Sesay, a revolutionary who some of his countrymen consider a hero and others brand a war criminal responsible for crimes against humanity. As an international court established by the United Nations attempts to uncover the answer to one of Africa's most intense civil wars, the film becomes an eye-opening look at the limitations of the international judiciary system and the difficulty of finding the truth.

Another African-based story is told in GRACE, MILLY, LUCY....CHILD SOLDIERS by Canadian filmmaker Raymonde Prvenchter. The film tells the harrowing stories of several Ugandan women who were forcibly abducted as children and pressured to commit brutal acts by a notoriously vengeful rebe group. As the women attempt to move on while also acknowledging the terrible things they have done, the film makes a harrowing statement on the costs of war and the struggle in remaking lives once crushed by violence.  

In German director Uli Stelzner's LA ISLA: ARCHIVES OF A TRAGEDY, the violent history of repression in Guatemala is uncovered by the discovery of a vast carchive of secret police documents of the country's former extremist military regimes. The treasure trove was found near  La Isla, the country's most notorious prison, where thousands of cviilians targeted by the country's fantatical right-wing governments were detained, tortured and killed. A team of dedicated forensic specialists take on the ardurous task of sorting through the files, giving voice to the many who disappeared and forcing former military and government officials to pay for their crimes against humanity and a troubled nation.

While not an official part of the sidebar, several other films also have at the heart the necessity for bridge building. In the French film THE ARRIVALS by Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard, the social system of France must cope with the tens of thousands of refugees seeking asylum as antagonism towards them continues to build in the French state. In the US/Canadian co-production HOLYWARS by Stephen Marshall, two deeply committed men of faith----one a Muslim, the other a Christian----attempt the cross the divide of intolerance and bigotry that has fueled tensions that go back centuries.  and tortured.

In the Danish film THE RED CHAPEL, humor comes to the rescue as a comedy troupe from Denmark is invited to perform in the notoriously closed country of North Korea, bringing a brand of free speech that government officials are powerless to close down. Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone also takes a hand at bridge building in his new documentary SOUTH OF THE BORDER. By highlighting leftist political systems that have emerged in South America, the prolific filmmaker attempts to demystify the ascent of left-leaning heads of state and indicate that their rise to power is not a treat to the United States.

For more information on these and others films at this year's Festival, visit:

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Dailies Editor



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About Silverdocs Documentary FF

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, taking place at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland from June 21 to 27, 2010.

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