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Film festival focuses on non-violent resistance

Mel Flanagan | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Peace studies course material and film study will converge at the fifth annual ScreenPeace Film Festival, where attendees will share in the experiences of five nonviolent resistors from around the world.

The festival, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday, is co-sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Hal Culbertson, executive director of the Kroc Institute, said this year’s festival theme of nonviolent resistance developed in response to the Arab Spring, a series of civil resistance movements in the Arab world that began in late 2010.

“We thought there would be significant interest in the Arab Spring and its impact around the world,” Culbertson said. “We decided to make the theme of nonviolent resistance the centerpiece because we knew of several films that related to this.”

The five films that will be shown over the course of the festival portray the stories of a varied cast of people: a Palestinian farmer, a Chinese artist and activist, a scholar of nonviolent resistance, an interracial American couple and an aspiring Algerian filmmaker.

Alison Rice, associate professor of French and Francophone literatures, will introduce the last film of the weekend, “Normal!,” about a young Algerian filmmaker living and working when the Arab Spring protests begin in his country in the last days of 2010.

“With these protests taking place, it’s like a documentary, but it’s not labeled a documentary,” Rice said. “It’s like a film within a film.”

The film follows the struggles of the filmmaker as he tries to discern how to act appropriately in the midst of the protests, Rice said.

“[It is] really about the dilemma of how to act when you’re in a societal system in a country where you do not agree with the way things are going,” she said. “How do you react, how do you respond effectively?”

The film sends a message of solidarity, Rice said, and the feeling of “everyone participating in something together.”

Rice was chosen to introduce “Normal!” for the ScreenPeace Festival because of her close connections with Algerian culture as a professor of French and Francophone literature, she said.

“I also love the work the Kroc Institute does, and I am firmly behind the idea of peace studies, and I love film as well,” Rice said. “It was a perfect opportunity for me to respond to.”

Culbertson said the Kroc Institute chooses films for the festival that will relate to the material the Peace Studies department is teaching in the classroom.

“We designate films with our chief educational goals in mind and we try to complement our class discussions of peace with films that are particularly situated where conflict and peace issues are prominent,” he said. “It can address issues on a more local level and more in context than we often can in the classroom.”

The festival also provides food for thought for others who may not know a great deal about peace issues around the world.

“The real goal is to stimulate thought and reflection of peace issues around the world,” he said. “I think film as a medium is a wonderful way for people to learn about other cultures and contexts. It’s a different way of seeing peace issues played out.”

The festival is free to attend, but tickets are required. For a full schedule of films and to obtain tickets, visit performingarts.nd.edu.