It is our belief that films have the incredible power to uplift and bring hope to viewers, as well as effectively deliver a vision for a better future. Film also plays a significant role in highlighting inequality, injustice and inhumanity. For these reasons, the Cinema for Peace Foundation endeavors to further peace and understanding worldwide through the support of cinematographic works. Through the involvement in the production and distribution of films about violence, ecocide, war, poverty, the prevention of diseases (e.g. AIDS) and violations of human rights, the Cinema for Peace Foundation works to raise awareness about humanitarian issues worldwide. Such films are supported and made accessible through the foundation as widely as possible, either directly by Cinema for Peace, or by supporting third parties in doing so. Since 2002, Cinema for Peace has orchestrated over 100 initiatives and projects. Below you can learn about four of them.
After two years of restoration works, the international cultural project Cinema Jenin opened its doors on August 5th with an impressive opening ceremony. On behalf of our foundation, Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador and CINEMA FOR PEACE Ambassador Bianca Jagger spoke at the event. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad cut the ribbon to officially open the cinema. Bianca Jagger said in her welcome speech: “When I was in Jenin in 2002, I was shocked by the destruction of the city. Now I can see that Cinema Jenin gives the people new hope. I wish that the cinema will provide culture and education not only here in Jenin, but also in other cities throughout Palestine”.
CINEMA FOR PEACE founder Jaka Bizilj also expressed our strong belief in the reconciliation power of film and culture: “We hope Cinema Jenin will bring back to this formerly very dangerous place film and culture, and will build a bridge of understanding between Palestinians and Israelis’.
A symbol of this goal was the appearance at the opening of Samah Gadban, the 17-year-old girl from Israel who had received her donor heart from Palestinian boy Ismail Khatib. This emotional story is told in the movie “The Heart of Jenin” by Marcus Vetter; honoured at the Cinema for Peace Gala 2009 – the starting point for Cinema Jenin and the successful cooperation with the foundation.
CINEMA FOR PEACE supported the opening of Cinema Jenin and the Film Art Centre, where young people will learn to create their own movies on issues such as peace, reconciliation and justice. Furthermore, movies will be shown here to school classes and lectures on filmmaking will be held.
The news of the murder of the director of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Mer Khamis, on April 4th 2011 came to us as a shock. This terrible incident might entail even further negative implications.
The resurrection of Cinema Jenin has enormous dramatic potential and its story has originated a documentary called "Cinema Jenin - The Story of a Dream", by Marcus Vetter and Aleksei Bakri. Mer Khamis is one of the protagonists of this documentary film.
The film tells this story from the very first moment. It becomes a drawn-out process, as the German director at the center of his own story encounters complex cultural relationships and sentiments. Initially, he doesn’t understand many Palestinian customs and he gets taken to task for it on several occasions. What’s more, the involvement of foreign parties is a delicate issue for many Palestinians – especially when it comes to Israel. Although the new cinema is supposed to welcome everyone, the enterprise prompts reactions that reveal the painful nature of the relationship between Palestine and Israel. The word “peace” becomes extremely charged, and the initiators Ismael, Fakhri and Marcus have to take care that the social project doesn’t turn into a political one. These and other problems need to be solved with the help of a few big names, lots of volunteers, and even more cigarettes. (idfa)
"Cinema Jenin - The Story of a Dream" had its world Premiere at the 24. International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (idfa) on the 22nd of November 2011 as part of the competition.
The documentary is currently in German cinemas and has won several prizes already, including the "Prädikat besonders wertvoll" and the DEUTSCHEN KAMERAPREIS in the category of documentary films for best editing.
Films on Justice
The Cinema for Peace started focusing on films about justice since 2008 with the International Criminal Court. In May 2010, the Cinema for Peace Foundation organized the Films on Justice Screenings at the International Criminal Court Conference in Kampala/Uganda. During the conference, CFPF presented more than 15 Delegate Screenings for the delegates of the conference, all dealing with issues of the conference such as war crimes, genocides and aggression. 4600 representatives of states, as well as of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations attended the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute since this founding treaty came into effect with the implementation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague.
At a Special Evening for Justice during the conference, the UN and its General Secretary Ban Ki-moon were presented with the Justitia Award. This CFPF Award was presented by the Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador Bianca Jagger, founder and chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation. During the evening, three films of the extensive film program were screened: “Children of War” documents the riveting story of a group of former child soldiers as they exit the battlefield, enter a rehabilitation centre, and undergo a remarkable process of trauma therapy and emotional healing. “Invisible Children” highlights what the community refers to as “night commuters”: Thousands of children “commute” from their villages each night in order to avoid the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) abductions. “The Reckoning” follows ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo across four continents, as he issues warrants for LRA leaders in Uganda, puts Congolese warlords on trial, shakes up the Colombian justice system, and charges Sudan’s President with genocide in Darfur.
The Films on Justice Screenings at the International Criminal Court Conference in Kampala/Uganda in May 2010 were brought to the people as well. Among the movies screened at the Public Screenings at Watoto Church in Kampala were THE RECKONING, portraying the current work of the ICC itself, THE NUREMBERG TRIALS, a world premiere of the newly restored version of the classic film, TAKING ROOT, with involved human rights activists in attendance, AS WE FORGIVE, with director Laura Waters Hinson present, HEART OF JENIN, with director Marcus Vetter, and Academy Award Nominee Oliver Hirschbiegel’s FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN.
Screening in Support of Sakineh Ashtiani
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the 43-year-old Iranian mother of two convicted in May 2006 of having an “illicit relationship”, despite already having been punished with a sentence of 99 lashes, was recently further convicted of “adultery” and sentenced to death by stoning. Due to massive international protests, her execution was delayed, but is still feared to take place anytime. In support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and all women in Iran facing the same cruel destiny, the CINEMA FOR PEACE Foundation organized a press conference and a special screening of ‘The Stoning of Soraya M.’ by Cyrus Nowrasteh, winner of the CINEMA FOR PEACE Award for Justice 2010. The press conference took place in attendance of Sakineh Ashtiani’s attorney Mohammed Mostafaei, Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador Bianca Jagger, and Markus Löning, German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights.
Mohammad Mostafaei was forced to flee Iran at the end of July due to serious threats to seek asylum in Norway. The trip to Germany to speak at the press conference organized by CINEMA FOR PEACE in Berlin was his first travel abroad since his arrival in Norway. All participants jointly expressed their concerns about the deterioration of human rights in Iran and demanded to repeal the death penalty against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, to abolish the barbarous penalty of stoning and the death penalty in general, and to establish a democratic legal system in Iran, giving women their human and democratic rights. These demands have been supported by members of all political parties in Germany, e.g. by Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD) and Gregor Gysi (DIE LINKE). The petition and appeal to save Sakineh’s life was also signed by German Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP),Annie Lennox, Bob Geldof, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford and many more.
Our press conference and “urgent action” received broad national and international media attention – and showed almost immediate effects: Following a suggestion of CINEMA FOR PEACE, Serkan Tören, member of the German Government, offered asylum to Mrs. Ahtiani. We are currently discussing with him possibilities for a screening of “The Stoning of Soraya M” for the German parliament. The Iranian government has contacted Mr. Mostafaei shortly after the press conference and offered him to return to Iran. At the same time French First Lady Carla Bruni contacted the attorney in exile to offer her support on behalf of France. Mr. Mostafaei is currently not pursuing any requests, until his family, who is still in Iran, is allowed to leave the country. He is positive that, under the international pressure, Sakineh Ashtianis life may be saved. As a matter of course we will continue action till this goal will be hopefully reached.
Safekeeping Darfur & Protecting Victims in Sudan
In cooperation with the Humanitarian Foundation H.O.P.E. and our local partners, Cinema for Peace Foundation has been supporting the project "Safe-Keeping Darfur". The aim of the project is to provide humanitarian workers with digital mini-cameras that are then distributed to local people so they can record events, in turn providing protection, evidence and live satellite transmissions for the real-time delivery of information to the world about atrocities and emergencies in Darfur. So far more than 200 mini – cameras as well as 12 laptop computers and additional satellite internet equipment have been provided to local humanitarian workers.
In 2012, Cinema for Peace Foundation supported filmmaker Andrew Berends in exposing the atrocities taking place in the Nuba Mountains through a documentary film.
Since gaining independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has experienced more years of conflict than peace. These conflicts, fought between the Sudanese government and movements arising in Sudan’s peripheries, are commonly rooted in the exploitative leadership of Khartoum and the unequal distribution of power and wealth among the Sudanese population.
In Darfur, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict. Innocent people, mostly women and children, are abused, raped and murdered daily in this region. The international community has been slow to respond in helping the local population and to bringing the criminals to justice.
In response to this situation, the Slovenian humanitarian organization H.O.P.E. and peace activist Tomo Križnar started the project “Safekeeping Darfur” which is supported by Cinema for Peace. The aim of the project is to provide humanitarian workers with digital mini-cameras that will then be distributed to local people so they can record events, in turn providing protection, evidence and live satellite transmissions for the real-time delivery of information to the world about atrocities and emergencies in Darfur. Data recorded under this program may be forwarded to the International Criminal Court to be used as evidence in criminal trials and will also be used in a documentary to raise awareness of the situation in Darfur.
Cameras have successfully been delivered in Darfur in 2010. Since the situation further deteriorated in 2011 and human rights violations increased in other Sudanese regions near the boarder to South Sudan, such as Kordofan, the Nuba Mountains, Abyei and Kadugli, the camera project was expanded to trouble spots in these regions and the project was renamed “Safekeeping Darfur & Protecting Victims in Sudan.” Local people have reported that cameras are circulating through the camps and, as awareness of the cameras has increased, incidences of crimes have decreased by 80 to 100 percent.