Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 1.5
Box 149, Oley, PA 19547 USA
Bullfrog Films produces and distributes a variety of videos and films which examine conflict resolution and issues of peace and conflict. The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution recently examined some of Bullfrog's offerings:
The Art of Being Human: A Portrait of Frederick Franck - Written and Directed by Emily Squires, produced by Leonard M. Marks and Peter Laurence.
Frederick Franck is an artist and author who believes in seeing everything around him. Franck does not mean simply looking at, but instead actively realizing the importance of everything around him, especially other people. This is the basis of his book "The Zen of Seeing" and also a philosophy which is explained in The Art of Being Human. By actually seeing those around us, Franck believes cruelty and destructive conflict will be avoided.
This film explains briefly Franck's background in Europe and his political views, but is primarily an interview with Franck and a tour of the residence he shares with his wife in New York. Franck's artwork is featured prominently and he is an interesting personality, a fact which shows through the medium well. The Art of Being Human is an interesting and insightful look at a man and how his personal philosophies can shape his art and life.
Dinner for Two - Directed by Janet Perlman, Produced by Barrie Angus McLean, and the National Film Board of Canada. 7.5 minutes.
When the Dust Settles - Directed by Louise Johnson, produced by Barrie Angus McLean, and the National Film Board of Canada. Seven minutes.
These short, animated films are intended to illustrate what happens when a conflict gets out of hand. In Dinner for Two, two chameleons fight over a single piece of food until a wise frog arrives to help resolve the conflict. In When the Dust Settles, two gophers begin digging homes near each other and soon realize they are too close. One gopher throws dirt into the other's hole, prompting an angry response. The conflict escalates until the gophers realize the humanity (is it possible to conjugate "gopher"?) in each other and stop fighting.
These simple stories belie the value which their approach brings to conflict resolution education. By using animated nonhuman characters, it should be easier for discussion to focus on the issues in the conflict instead of particular biases and assumptions about the participants.
Bullfrog understands this value and has included with the tape a series of pre- and post-viewing exercises for both young and old participants. The activities for Dinner for Two stress the difference between win-lose and win-win resolutions and the roles various characters play in the conflict. Those for When the Dust Settles deal with anger and the escalation of conflict.
Both films can and should serve as a basis for further investigation. By using the metaphor of the animals' conflicts, discussions can become as basic or sophisticated as the audience dictates. These films should be seen in both boardrooms and elementary schools.
Dinner for Two has won the Animated Eye Award at the Aspen Shorts Festival, Best Animation at the 1997 San Diego Film Festival, Bronze Apple at the National Educational Media Competition, and Best Short Film at the Montreal World Film Festival.
When the Dust Settles was a finalist at the Aspen Shorts Festival.
The Human Race: 1) The Bomb Under the World, 2) Escaping from History, 3) The Tribal Mind, 4) The Gods of our Fathers - Produced by Catherine Mullins. Written and Hosted by Gwynne Dyer.
The Human Race is a four-part series, written and hosted by historian and journalist Gwynne Dyer, that examines the implications of population and consumption worldwide. The major theme of the series is that it is not too late to implement a plan which can allow for an increase in the standard of living worldwide without jeopardizing either our own welfare or that of the environment. Each part of the series examines a different aspect of what Dyer sees as the problem: consumption (The Bomb Under the World), group interests and violence (The Tribal Mind), patriarchy (The Gods of Our Fathers), and industrialization (Escaping from History). Dyer, however, understands that these trends cannot be entirely eliminated. As a whole, The Human Race is a well-made and insightful series which argues persuasively for prudence and careful reflection about our path to the future.
The Bomb Under the World focuses on the globalization of the economy in India to illustrate the possible impact of worldwide modernization. With a population of over 900 million, the impact of widespread Western-style consumption upon on the society and environment of India will be large. The film uses a bombing on the floor of the Indian stock market on the day the film crew chose to film the exchange as an analogy for the impact of transforming a non-consumer culture into one driven by commercial development and consumption.
Dyer does not argue that consumption is a problem inherently. He goes to great lengths to show that, for many, improved living standards are necessary and tries to illustrate the differences between the upper and lower classes. By using a variety of interviews, from a Gandhian professor to advertising executives, Dyer is able to show different perspectives on consumerism.
Dyer himself refuses to argue that consumer society and consumption itself are unnatural or that we have somehow moved outside our natural system. He does argue, however, that the environmental impacts of these conditions are causing problems now and can only be expected to cause additional problems as more people are brought into the modernizing, consumer world. In addition, he notes that industrialization was the most violent time for Western society and this cannot be expected to change in other regions. Dyer's solution is a global human who can change the way he or she thinks to understand that we are all neighbors and share a common set of problems.
The Bomb Under the World is primarily concerned with the societal and environmental impact of consumer culture in the underdeveloped world. It provides an insightful and well-argued case that if we are to survive this transformation, it must be understood and handled with intelligence and care.
The Tribal Mind looks at the danger of maintaining a we-they system (what Dyer calls Tribalism) which often leads to violence, if not outright war and genocide. To illustrate his argument that it is possible to change the "tribal mind," the film examines post-Apartheid South Africa.
Dyer sees South Africa as a country that was led by tribal thinking, but is trying to outgrow this condition. The Tribal Mind uses the lives of some citizens in the final year of white rule before the first multi-race elections to examine the possibilities for change.
It is important to note that Dyer does not intend to use the term "tribal" to reflect just developing or undeveloped societies, but as a description of any societal system which is overly concerned with the well being and existence of other groups. Within the tribal mindset, all interactions are zero-sum and the only way to be entirely successful is to eliminate the other tribes.
Dyer believes that while families and communities are real entities which people have a close connection with, ethnic and national groups are, on some level, always "a kind of fiction." This is key to his belief that a new mindset can be adopted which does not concern itself with just group members, but also stresses the humanity of all people.
The Gods of Our Fathers examines the history and contemporary impact of patriarchy. Dyer feels that patriarchy is one of the core problems with what he describes as the difference between how individuals act on their own (usually well) and how they act in large groups (often with horrible consequences).
The film begins by using gender relations in the United States to illustrate the effects of male-dominance on society. Dyer interviews Elisabeth Furse, a first-time congresswoman and peace activist, to show that the US government is still primarily, a men's club. From there, the film gets to the meat of the question of whether patriarchy is part of human nature or just an expedient form of society.
To look at the history of patriarchy, Dyer goes to Egypt. He explains that although many prehistoric societies were patriarchal, many also had gender equality. In the conversion from nomadic hunter-gather societies to village-based agricultural ones, the traditional hunters, men, were reduced in importance when compared with the agricultural workers, women. In Dyer's scenario, as men were pushed aside and felt less important, they became resentful and lashed out with a militaristic society which overtook the women.
Although Dyer attempts to downplay human nature in his analysis, it inevitably comes up. In order to justify the male revolt which created the patriarchal system, Dyer must first grant that it is human nature to seek power. Otherwise, there is no reason for the resentment men felt. Dyer walks a fine line between demonizing humans in general (with natural patriarchy) and stigmatizing men with the idea of male lust for power. This study of the rise of patriarchy is effective and interesting.
Escaping from History is the final episode of The Human Race. It begins with a restatement of the analysis started in The Bomb Under the World: that Western-style consumption is both desired by the developing world and will be dangerous if not moderated. Dyer extends his investigation of the impacts of globalized communication on consumer desires by examining the possible benefits of development, specifically how communication can foster democracy.
In the past, democratization was a function of literacy rates. Dyer states that a few generations after literacy reaches 50% of the population of a country, democratic ideals will have spread and the country will democratize. Television only increases the speed of this transition. Although this would seem to be an oversimplification, the basic argument makes sense.
This film is, by and large, a restatement of the general theme of the series: that there are global trends that affect us all and of which me must be wary. Dyer does not believe we are destined for an apocalypse if we do not act prudently and carefully, but he does believe we are capable of ignoring the warning signs and sealing our fate.
Inside Burma, Land of Fear Produced and Directed by David Munro. A Carlton UK Production. Reported by John Pilger. 52 minutes (in two parts for classroom use: 33/17 minutes).
Inside Burma is a detailed and uncompromising look at the history and current aspects of repression in Burma/Myanmar. The film examines the colonial and wartime history that led to the rise of a military government, but spends most of its time dealing with issues after the 1990 democratic election of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ann San Suu Kyi. John Pilger and David Munro filmed much of the footage and interviews for Inside Burma while undercover in the country.
One of the refreshing aspects of Inside Burma is that democracy is not presented as a panacea for the troubles in Burma. The film presents the repression by the government without hesitation, and likewise does not shy away from asking Aung San Suu Kyi tough questions about the realistic prospect for democracy and the benefits which could be expected. This is not to say that there is no bias. Pilger takes the last few minutes of the film to explain his view that the repression is at least tolerated, if not encouraged, by capitalists from the West.
Munro and Pilger also do not restrain from showing the harsh realities of the repression. They include footage of citizens being shot and still pictures of bodies. They also interview people who tell graphic stories about torture.
Inside Burma is not the epitome of objective journalism, but Monro and Pilger are clear about their feelings and it is hard to argue with the documentary evidence they provide. This film would be a welcome addition to an advanced high school or college classroom and should be admired for its honesty and determination.
WorldFest Gold Award
Columbus International Film Festival Bronze Plaque
International Award for Risk Journalism, Barcelona
The War Symphonies: Shostakovich Against Stalin - Directed by Larry Weinstein, produced by Rhombus Media.
This film examines the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union and Dmitri Shostakovich's personal protest against the harsh conditions under which his fellow citizens had to live. Shostakovich wrote his Fourth through Ninth Symphonies, what he called his "tombstones," to protest these conditions. This film provides an excellent opportunity to examine an innovative nonviolent response to violence.
The War Symphonies incorporates archive footage and photographs with interviews of people who personally knew Shostakovich or were present at the time and beautiful performances of Shostakovich's work directed by Valery Gergiev with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre.
This documentary should be of interest to anyone concerned with nonviolent struggles against oppression and provides insight into the mind of one of the century's most important musical minds.
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