Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Palestinian and Israeli Youth to Collaborate at GIFTS

PEACE IT TOGETHER 2006

A Peace & Filmmaking Summer Camp

At the Gulf Islands Film and Television School

August 4th – 21st, 2006

PREMIERE SCREENING

Galiano South Community Hall

August 19 at 7:00pm

SCREENING GALA

HR Macmillan Space Centre

1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver, BC

August 20 at 7:00pm

For immediate release. Vancouver, July 18th, 2006.

As the fog of war thickens in the Middle East, and broadens its impact beyond the borders of Israel and Palestine, it is more important than ever to hear hopeful news regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lives and faces of people that do not make it to the forefront of international media may have a different story to tell. The stories of such people are often lost and forgotten amid the darkness of bloodshed and suffering. It is especially important to know that despite the severe situation, there are many people determined to build momentum towards reconciliation and peace. Their stories bring a ray of light and hope.


One such story – or in fact, thirty of them - is unfolding this summer among the serene rainforest of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. Thirty youth from Palestine, Israel and Canada will gather at the Gulf Islands Film and Television School on Galiano Island to engage in creative conversations and filmmaking in a peaceful and safe environment of mutual respect and co-existence for 18 days. The summer program is appropriately named Peace It Together.


The organizers of this unusual peace initiative believe that Peace it Together is more relevant now than it has ever been. “As violence escalates, people become more polarized and more emotional”, says Reena Lazar, a Jewish-Canadian and an executive director of Creative Peace Network. “This, of course, is the exact opposite of what is needed. While our program is unlikely to solve the current crisis, it will give the participants the unique opportunity to work through their fear and anger in a safe environment and with the very people to whom their feelings are directed”.


Adri Hamael, a Palestinian-Canadian and an executive director of the organization adds, “Through dialogue and filmmaking, the youth and their audiences will have the chance to struggle with and make sense of the conflict that impacts so many lives. I'm hoping that adults around the world, and particularly back in the participant’s homelands, will listen to what these young people will have to say.”


This is the second peace summer camp initiated and organized by Creative Peace Network, a Vancouver-based multicultural charity committed to promoting peace by ending the culture of revenge and counter-revenge, and by building a culture of mutual respect and understanding between Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, Muslims and Arabs. The organization is made up of, and lead by, equal numbers of Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, Arab and Canadian members.


The program will be mentored by leading filmmakers and educators from British Columbia, one of whom is Velcrow Ripper, a documentary filmmaker and winner of two Genie Awards (ScaredSacred, Bones of the Forest), a spiritual activist and co-founder of the Gulf Islands Film and Television School. “In this tragic time of dramatically escalating war and bloodshed in the middle east, we desperately need stories of hope, possibility and reconciliation”, Says Ripper. “Peace It Together is one such flower rising from the wreckage, offering a critical opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian youth to step outside the pressure cooker of war and spend time learning to recognize their shared humanity, using creativity to help tear down the walls of misunderstanding, building new bridges to peace”.


Preparing for the program has already had a significant impact on the local community. The process requires constant dialogue, listening, self-awareness and transformation – and every single person in the project is exposed to this process: the board of directors, members, volunteers, and the staff at the Gulf Islands Film and Television School – and of course, the participants.


“As we prepare for the program, we realize how much impact this project has already had on our lives in raising our awareness of the issues and cultural differences”, says Kenna Fair, director of the Gulf Islands Film and Television School. “Everything has to be thought of to the last detail in order to accommodate the students’ needs and the program’s integrity. We’ve ensured, to the best of our ability, that there are an equal number of male and female mentors, Jewish and Muslim mentors, and so on. Our catering service has been altered completely to accommodate the regulations of the Kosher and Hallal kitchens that many of the students observe. We hope that if we can create, along with the students and mentors, an environment of co-existence within our school – it will be a memory and an example for them to take home and live by in the future”.


Peace It Together will celebrate its successful step towards peace with an August 20th Gala, and a public screenings of the participants’ films, both at the HR Macmillan Space Centre Gala and the August 19th premiere on Galiano Island. The youth will be present at the Gala screening to present their films, and will be available to answer questions from the audience. After the 21st the participants will return to their homelands with their own films in hand, a message of hope which they will be able to share with the world in international film festivals – but most importantly, share with their families, friends and classmates back home.


Media contact: Ayala Sender (778) 863-0806

ayala@hellocoolworld.com


Available for interviews:

Adri Hamael – Creative Peace Network Executive Director, Palestinian Canadian

Reena Lazar – Creative Peace Network Executive Director, Jewish Canadian

Hila Russ-Woodland – Creative Peace Network Director, Israeli Canadian

Omar Kassis – Creative Peace Network Director, Palestinian Canadian

Kenna Fair – Executive Director of The Gulf Islands Film and Television School

Sonia Theroux – Communications Coordinator, The Gulf Islands Film and Television School

Velcrow Ripper – Mentor at the Gulf Islands film and Television School, an award winning Filmmaker (ScaredSacred, Bones of the Forest) and a Spiritual Activist

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