Tuesday, June 14, 2005

sowing seeds of peace

On Thursday June 22, the Curzon Cinema in the Mayfair area of central London is to host the UK Gala Premiere of "Seeds", a full-length documentary highlighting an attempt to reconcile young people from some of the world's hottest areas of conflict.

The film was produced by the Al Madad Foundation, which was founded in 2000 as a UK-registered charity by Faiza Alireza of Saudi Arabia with the support of her daughters Basma and Yasmin.

Al Madad is dedicated to the relief of poverty in the developing world, with a particular emphasis on the welfare of children. It raises financial support for cultural, medical and educational projects.

Guest speaker at the premiere is CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, winner of numerous awards. The film's producer and director, Marj Safinia and Joseph Boyle, will introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. The £50 tickets for the premier include a buffet dinner at Al Sultan restaurant in Mayfair.

"Seeds" is an account of the work of Seeds of Peace, the organisation established in 1993 by author and journalist John Wallach.

Seeds of Peace brings teenagers from regions of conflict together for three weeks every summer at an international camp in Maine. The idea is that through getting to know and listen to each other, the young people will learn mutual respect and the skills needed to make lasting peace.

At the Maine camp teenagers meet those from the "other side" whom they would ordinarily be unable to get to know. They include Palestinians and Israelis, Americans and Afghans, Indians and Pakistanis.

"Seeds" focuses on ten of the 166 teenagers at the camp, and chronicles the often difficult and emotional process of reconciliation from the perspective of the children themselves. As one of the Seeds says: "In order to make peace with your enemy, you have to go to war with yourself."
The film has been part of the official selection at some 30 international film festivals. It was runner up in the Audience Award category at both the Palm Springs and Cleveland film festivals.

The world premiere was as the opening night film at Silverdocs, the documentary film festival of AFI/Discovery Channel.

The project to make "Seeds" first took root in February 2002 after Marj Safinia was invited to a Seeds of Peace fundraiser in New York. She and Joseph Boyle subsequently drafted a film proposal and approached John Wallach - little realising that nine other filmmakers had approached Seeds with similar proposals.

Seeds of Peace gave Safinia and Boyle permission to film, and in just over five weeks they and producer Hana Alireza succeeded in raising more than $70,000 for production. They immediately set off for the camp in Maine, and had just three weeks to tell the story with its dramas and twists of fate.

There have been some glowing tributes to the film. Chris Walny of Detroit Documentary Festival described it as "one of those films that just might change the world." Judy Woodruff of CNN said it is "a spectacular film…truly impressive."

Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette June 14 2005

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