In a topic close to my heart, Jehane Noujaim affirms the importance of film and images in breaking down borders between individuals. As the 2006 TED prizewinner, she wishes for a global day of film to unite the world.
Noujaim is the daughter of an American mother and an Egyptian/Syrian/Lebanese father. She has a strong belief in the power of film to unite cultures. In 2003, two weeks before the U.S. invaded Iraq, she gained access to both Al Jazeera and the U.S. Military’s Central Command offices in Quatar. Through this, she was able to convey the different angles from which each nation covered the war and her documentary, ‘Control Room’, resulted.
During this insightful talk, we see footage from ‘Control Room’. For me, the most moving piece is that on an American press officer who describes the graphic footage shown on Al Jazeera. He had a mind altering moment when he noticed that his reaction was stronger on seeing the bodies of American soldiers when compared with those of Iraqis. Jehane tells us later that he finally left the army and worked for Al Jazeera, feeling he could somehow change the world through the media. In highlighting the differences in communication, Jehane asks a critical question about the true meaning of free speech in modern media.
Jehane’s hope is that others would be similarly inspired by a day of independent film, a day in which lone voices were heard and people around the world came together. She quotes Robert Wright, ‘If we have a respect for others’ humanity, they’ll have respect for ours.’ Her proposed name, ‘Pangea Day’, sums up her vision, Pangea being the supercontinent; world in unison. I echo her calls.
“As the world is getting smaller, it becomes more and more important that we learn each other’s dance moves, that we meet each other, we get to know each other, we are able to figure out a way to cross borders, to understand each other, to understand people’s hopes and dreams, what makes them laugh and cry.” Jehane Noujaim, 2006