Jehane Noujaim is a brilliant young filmmaker who has had an amazing track record with the films she’s built so far. “Startup.com” is an astounding portrait of the hope and failures of the dot.com era. “Control Room” is a brilliant introduction to the complexities of media in the US and Arab world through a close look at Al Jazeera during the second Iraq war.
Jehane says that her wish is simple – she wants world peace. She believes this will happen through cross-cultural encounter – if she could use the prize to force people to travel, she would, but she had something else in mind: cross-cultural encounter through film.
She shows us pictures from her mother’s childhood, meeting an exchange student from the Phillipines. She tells us about her origins, as the daughter of an American mother and an Egyptian/Lebanese/Syrian father with a Persian name… making her the Middle East peace crisis in a single person. She got her start with the power of images at age 18, putting up a display of photos of garbage pickers in Cairo. The exhibit was closed down almost immediately, as people objected to showing “the dirty side of Cairo” – but she realized that the images she shared were able to spark discussion and debate.
Jehane shows us scenes from three movies – Amandla, Encounter Point and Paradise Now. These films are all about conversation across barriers of culture, race or religion. She asks us to imagine what we could do if the whole world could get together and watch a movie like this.
And this is her wish: “I want to bring the world together for one day a year through the power of film.” She’s starting an organization called Pangaea Cinema Day – named after the vast landmass that preceded the separation into individual continents – which will project films across the world on a single day, making it possible for people to have dialog and conversation around them. (I’m hoping to find her so that I can offer Global Voices help in building the conversations after the film.)