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May 10, 2007

ZIFF – super creative art for social change and peace building

If you go back to my blog entry from the first day of the WSF (January 21), you can see that I met Martin and learned about the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which is more than just movies, but also social action, conversations and conscious cross cultural learning.

I met up with Martin in Stonetown and learned more about the awesome work of ZIFF. Through the year, they use media to promote peace and understanding. He told me about a really creative effort to use film to create a healthy conversation between factions of village conflicts… first they show a movie in the village and allow everyone to just watch it together, but at the same time they videotape the experience, including the people asking questions to ZIFF, and just being people. The next night they will show the video to both sides of the conflict, so that they can see with a bit of perspective that everyone is just human, sharing a common experience.

Then, they ask each side to select a person to explain what the conflict is about, and to select another person to be the videographer of that spokesperson. The ZIFF folks will teach anyone to use a video camera, as they know that things are better explained by and to people who know and feel comfortable with each other.

So, each side of the conflict will videotape themselves explaining the issues at hand. Then, ZIFF shows the videos to the other side of the conflict, allowing each group to see the other with space, time and perspective, and with no pressure for immediate defensiveness or reaction.

Then they will continue to videotape the groups until they are able to speak together and resolve the issue. Really interesting ideas! They say that it works quite well… and even works across power dynamics, like between a village and government officials. Nice work.

Here is a photo of a movie being shown in the town park… they show movies three times a week for a few months before the film festival as a build up and as education for people, getting people used to seeing videos of other cultures and ideas. ZIFF’s focus is on the “Dhow Countries,” the countries linked by the dhow boat on the Indian Ocean.

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