Last week, the Tribeca Film Festival turned a spotlight on the pending launch of Pangea Day, which can probably be best described as the first “worldwide film festival.” For four hours on May 10, 2008, twenty-four films “made by the world for the world” will be broadcast live around the globe via the Internet and at organized events around the globe. In a discussion ahead of today’s event, the movers and shakers behind Pangea Day discussed the beginning of a global film experiment.
“We asked well-known and non-well-known filmmakers around the world to ask themselves, ‘if you had the world’s attention, what would you say?’ Film allows you to see the world through other people’s eyes,” said TED prize-winning filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (“Control Room“) who dreamed up the idea for Pangea Day. “Pangea” refers to the geographical union of all the continents millions of years ago before continental drift separated many of the world’s major land surfaces.
CNN‘s chief correspondent Christiane Amanpour and former MTV News and CBS News correspondent Gideon Yago joined moderator Chris Anderson of TED (Technology Entertainment Design) at New York’s Directors Guild of America (DGA) theater to discuss the first annual event.
The roots of Noujaim’s idea for Pangea Day, which will be broadcast worldwide from 18:00 – 22:00 GMT, were in one particular scene from her 2004 Sundance documentary “Control Room” which impressed the director after showing it to a group of American skeptics in the Middle East. “‘Control Room’ helped spark dialog when I showed a clip from the film of a U.S. soldier who showed empathy for Iraqi injured. The Egyptians I showed were surprised and curious about the soldier — and this at a time when nobody there had any sympathy for a U.S. soldier.” Continuing, Noujaim said that at that moment, she was impressed by how film could be used as a medium to allow people to see a more human side to societies and cultures in conflict to allow for a greater conversation between sides.
“Sometimes, people don’t want to hear the other side is human because people don’t want to hear the ‘enemy’ is human,” said Amanpour who added that she’s supporting the event because she’s witnessed many instances when cultural exchange has aided in breaking through political deadlock.
“I have found that leaders won’t talk to adversaries because they’re afraid their people won’t tolerate it… When the New York philharmonic played recently in Pyongyang [North Korea] to an audience brought up to believe the U.S. started the Korean War and is the source of all their problems and to see them react — it was a breakthrough. The audience gave a standing ovation and these are a people who usually don’t do enthusiastic standing ovations.” Amanpour went on to say that a North Korean diplomat later told her off the record that the concert helped break a logjam in talks with the U.S. and that it was important in forwarding dialog.
“I feel like film is the new church,” said Yago. “People file in together and experience the same thing… And now we have the Internet.” Yago, during one particular moment of levity when comparing old and new media, caused a bit of nervous laughter both on stage and in the audience. “I defy you to type ‘war’ into You Tube and not see something more personal then what you can see in the nightly news broadcast. You can see IEDs explode and see people’s immediate reactions.” At that moment Amanpour, a veteran of international correspondence for CNN and other more traditional outlets made a face, which made Yago, who has produced and hosted documentaries for MTV, noticeably blush. “I say that with all do respect to you,” he turned and said to a smiling Amanpour. [Brian Brooks]
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Participant Media, as part of its involvement with Pangea Day, the global event showcasing short films from around the world on May 10, 2008, has announced the five films whose filmmakers will receive $5,000 grants in the “Outstanding Filmmakers Awards Program.” One winner from each continent was announced at a filmmakers retreat in Santa Monica Thursday night: From Africa, Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza‘s “Dear Mandela;” from Asia/Australia, Zeina Aboul Hosn‘s “I Remember Lebanon;” from Europe, Saleyha Ashan‘s “My Mother’s Daughter;” from North America, Ari Kushnir‘s “Moving Windmills;” from South America, Jaoquin Baldwin‘s “Papiroflexia.”
In addition, Participant is sponsoring the “Filmmaker Development Grant Program,” in which all 34 filmmakers whose films will be broadcast on television and/or posted on the Pangea Day website are eligible to submit a treatment for a feature film or documentary. These filmmakers will also compete for the grand prize of $20,000 to continue the development of the treatment and a non-binding first look deal with Participant for the treatment. [Peter Knegt]