Above: RC's Winnipeg representative Terri Cherniack (left) and executive director Jack Blum (right) flank guest filmmaker and Eco-warrior Emily Hunter.
After something of a “soft opening” last week in Stonewall, we blew into Manitoba with a more robust event at River East Collegiate: six films, six hundred kids. Organized almost entirely by a couple of great teachers, Pat Chellack and Anita Kumar, the films were chosen along certain thematic lines – social justice, sustainability, global poverty.
This was because River East is a “UNESCO School”, which is something I didn’t know existed until I went there. Apparently there are some 9,000 UNESCO schools in 180 countries around the world, from primary to high school, vocational and teachers colleges. They are all especially dedicated to promoting peace, democracy, human rights, sustainable development, and intercultural learning.
Anita Kumar and Pat Chellack
Anita Kumar is relatively new at River East, but she’s been a UNESCO teacher from day one, at the middle school that preceded this posting and as an organizer of conferences and other extra-curricular projects. She was eager to have REEL CANADA return to Winnipeg for a special conference that is happening there next December, involving teachers and students from across Canada, Israel and Germany. (Really.)
It was great to plug Canadian film into the mix.
Social-issue docs like SHARKWATER, THE CORPORATION, SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, and PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI made for great jumping-off points for discussions of sustainability, capitalism, genocide and racism. Eco-warrior and REEL CANADA superstar Emily Hunter came in person to get the kids fired up about what they themselves could do to change the world for the better. And Peter Raymont joined us via Skype to talk about the challenges of accompanying General Romeo Dallaire on his return to Rwanda ten years after the genocide shocked the world.
Equally exciting was to witness the creativity of these teachers as they got their students looking beneath the surface of films like THE ROCKET and MAMBO ITALIANO to explore the themes of social justice around which each of those films revolve. For THE ROCKET they were helped by the Skype appearance of Dan Diamond, Canada’s foremost hockey authority, who speaks with such insight into the meaning of the Richard Riots of the 50’s.
All in all it was a perfect blend of film fun and serious purpose and we were pleased to support River East in its association with UNESCO.