How do filmmakers respond to the horrors of terrorism and war? Since September 11, 2001, members of The D-Word Community, a global online forum for documentarians, have been grappling with these issues. From their virtual discussions, War & Peace: A D-Word Collaborative Project was born.
A collection of short documentary works that capture the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, War & Peace will launch at the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA) on November 24th in the Docs Online program. The project will be presented at the festival at 3:30pm in the Grote Zaal at de Balie, Amsterdam. Viewers worldwide can watch pieces streamed online and then join in discussion via the project’s portal site. The filmmakers will add more pieces and the project will continue to evolve as the international crisis unfolds.
Initial highlights of War & Peace include: Graphic verité coverage from the morning of September 11, captured within blocks of ground zero; Tibetan Buddhists keeping vigil in New York’s Union Square; a chat with two octogenarians activists demonstrating at a Los Angeles peace rally; perspectives on the war from the context of Munich’s celebrated Oktoberfest; an essay on the meaning of national solidarity as expressed through the act of shopping.
If Vietnam was the first television war and Iraq was the first cable news war, then the events of September 11 mark the arrival of war coverage and correspondence on the internet. When cell phones went down in the wake of the terrorist attack, D-Word members as close as five blocks from ground zero and others half-way around the globe gathered online to share their experiences, their fears, and their sorrow.
In a posting two days after the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks, D-Word founder Doug Block expressed his deepest thanks to the community for helping him through an indescribably grim time. He then announced a new discussion topic, ‘War and Peace’, “to give us a place to share our thoughts and feelings about what’s going on in this crazy world with each other. And to discuss how it impacts our work and lives as documentary filmmakers.”
Community members immediately drew parallels between the destruction in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Writing from New York City, Fernanda Rossi recalled growing up in Argentina: “I was living there during the bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Cultural Center. Terrorism, unfortunately, is not unknown to me. But nothing can match this horror.”
A thousand more messages (and counting) followed and, gradually, a mission to create a collaborative project under the broad theme of war and peace took shape. “…this virtual community itself helped all of us deal with the feeling of powerlessness and the desire to make the media landscape more pluralistic,” writes D-Word member Birgit Rathsmann.
A collection of individual voices, War & Peace is as inclusive and open to interpretation as possible. Topic, style, format and duration of segments are at the filmmaker’s discretion. War & Peace embraces diversity and encourages the democratic exchange of ideas. And the project will break the “fourth wall” between creator and audience by offering a public discussion forum where viewers and interact with filmmakers.
Filmmaker Erica Ginsberg writes, “Rather than simply streaming videos on the web, we are seeking to create pieces which are primarily intended for the web. They are intended to provoke questions in the mind of audiences who can then respond to the pieces through public discussion groups, message boards, and chats with us.”
Supervising producers for War & Peace are Sarah George (Los Angeles), Birgit Rathsmann (New York), and Ben Kempas (Munich). George and Kempas will present the launch at the IDFA. Co-founded and hosted by New York-based documentary veteran Doug Block, The D-Word Community is a free online conference with over 300 registered members from 18 countries. The community functions as a support network and collective resource, encouraging the sharing of ideas, information and highly opinionated discourse.
War & Peace is the second collaborative project for the D-Word Community. The first, Essays on Documentary, focused on the art and meaning of documentary filmmaking itself and included eight shorts which were hosted on Docuweb.
For more information, contact Sarah George in Los Angeles, CA, at 323-666-0285 (home), 213-700-7273 (cell). In Amsterdam, from November 23rd until the 30th, contact Ben Kempas at +49 171 2764778 (cell).
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