Richard Peña About Cinema for Social Change
small, Richard Peña About Cinema for Social Change, Richard Peña, photo: courtesy of the organisers, richard_pena_portret.jpg
Cinema for Social Change, a project jointly organised by Culture.pl and IDFF CRONOGRAF, will launch in Chisinau on the 12th to the 18th May. Here are some words from Richard Peña, one of the founders of the idea.
Cinema for Social Change
For a second year, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute— through its program, Culture.pl program — has invited me and Adam Michnik to organize and present a series of films that address some of the essential political and social issues facing all of us today. After reviewing a large sample of films, we have come up with the list of seven that are included in this series; we hope you will have the chance to see them all, as they represent not only a range of important topics but also a wide variety of cinematic styles.
Although we did not enter into this selection process with preconceived idea of a theme or a topic that we wanted to address, I’m struck when looking over this list how many of the films seem to center around the concept of movement. In some cases, that movement is quite literal: films such as Long Way Home and Which Way Home deal literally with characters who venture hundreds or even thousands of miles from their homes. Yet movement also figures in a film such as Even the Rain, in this case the movement of international capital, as we see how a multinational corporation can come into a nation and take control of something even as vital as the water supply. The powerful Moldavian documentary The Wired Prut is actually a portrait of the restriction of movement, as we see the impact of political machinations of leaders hundreds of miles away on the daily lives of people who used to form a single community. Finally, It's Hard to be Loved by Jerks, we see one of the problematic aspects of all the international movement of populations and cultures: what happens when your political rights run up against my religious values?
Especially in a world in which technological advances has made the transfer of people and ideas so easy, movement has come to be one of our most cherished if most contested ideals. People should be allowed to go where they want, to live where they want; this is a belief that has special resonance for me, as an American, as I live in a country in which all but the three million or so who claim Native American ancestry are immigrants of one sort or another. I myself am “first generation;” I was born in New York, but neither of my parents were born in the United States, so I’m deeply concerned about the current and increasingly polarized discussions about immigration to the U.S.
The films we have selected do not provide any answers to the issues they address; rather what they do attempt is to provide a human face to those issues, to move these discussions out of the realm of abstract political debate and onto the terrain of the actual lives of citizens from around the world—from China to France to Bolivia to Moldova to El Salvador to Poland and beyond. We look forward to screening them for you as well as hearing your thoughts and reactions to them.
Director Emeritus, New York Film Festival
Professor of Film Studies, Columbia University