Monday, June 22, 2009

6th Annual Tokyo Peace Film Festival Plays to a Packed House: Explores Tibet, Palestine, and Alternatives to the Economy of Exploitation

 The Tokyo Peace Film Festival finished its sixth run this past weekend with great success, screening eleven films and hosting a series of panel discussions over a three-day period to an audience of over 1300 attendees.

This year’s festival focused in particular on the regions of Tibet and Palestine, including films such as the powerful 1998 documentary exploring Tibetan occupation, Windhorse, the poignant story of a formerly jailed Tibetan monk’s triumph of the spirit in Fire Under the Snow from by a young female Japanese director living in New York City; and Rainbow, which documents the tragic effects of a siege by the Israeli army against a Palestinian community in 2004.

The festival also screened several films that highlight the economic basis for many of the world’s present ills and suggest more humane alternatives, such as Ende’s Last Words and One Man, One Cow, One Planet, as well as additional films exploring the human cost of militarism, such as Winter Soldier featuring interviews with Iraqi veterans speaking out against the war (site in Japanese only) and Agent Orange: A Personal Requiem, which explores the lingering pain from the Vietnam War.

Interested in exploring the linkages between seemingly disparate historical events, this year’s festival also featured several speakers who pointed out the commonalities existing with regard to the occupations of Palestine and Tibet. Clearly delineating the inner workings of today’s global economy, they also offered ideas regarding what we as ordinary citizens can do in order to help create a fairer system.

One of the festival’s featured speakers, Tanaka Yu, an activist who consistently speaks out regarding the connections between a militarized economy and continuing environmental destruction, pointed out in the festival brochure that “the problem in Tibet cannot be solved if we regard the issue merely as one of human rights. To get to the actual origin of the conflict, we must go beyond this to the deeper existing issue of mineral and oil resources in the region.” By then working to support alternative energy sources, he explained, “we can create a system whereby those who end up procuring such resources will not be able to profit from them.”

Speaking onstage during the festival, Tanaka continued by explaining that “the economy of war, which relies on the exploitation of natural resources, depends on us as consumers. Every time we use Windows software or buy coffee from Starbucks, for example, we are in effect supporting corporations that are contributing money to the Israeli government. By deciding how we spend our money, however, we do have the power to make a change.”

The festival also featured a lively space in the lobby of the venue for various NGOs and citizens groups promoting peace and sustainability to display literature and sell goods, including the International Film Festival on Organic Farming,  the "Beyond National Egoism” Network, the music-based volunteer collective Peace Not War Japan, award-winning photojournalism magazine Days Japan,  and several groups supporting Tibetan and Palestinian rights.

A video including highlights from the festival is available here, and several recent postings with photos are available on festival organizer Kikuchi Yumi’s blog in Japanese.

Additional sponsors (Japanese websites only):

Tennen Jutaku (Natural Homes)

--Kimberly Hughes

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