Watch Locally, Think Globally

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2012/08/31

Invitation to Hiroshima Peace Seminar

Hiroshima Jogakuin University invited foreign students and guests to the Peace Seminar that was held during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, which commemorates the August 6th bombing of Hiroshima. This seminar, with the support of the Wesley Foundation, promotes international cross-cultural understanding and provides social welfare services. The seminar runs from August 3rd to August 7th. Many programs are carried out each day from morning to night. Each program has lectures and workshops run by guest speakers and university students. There are many different themes that will be discussed in these programs. This year’s ceremony was visited by Clifton Truman Daniel, a grandson of former US president Harry Truman, as well as Ari Beser, whose grandfather Jacob Beser took part in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. There were many other international guests as well, including human rights activists and peace activists.

Hiroshima Jogakuin University, which runs the Peace Seminar, invited CON-CAN to host one of the programs. At 7:30PM, August 5th, we held a movie screening lecture session. We shared 9 movies from our archive which covered many topics, including war, the environment, economics, religion, language, and the motives behind warfare.

The seminar’s participants included students from Hiroshima Jogakuin University, Kobe College, Wesleyan College, and Columbia College, as well as guest speakers from India, the Philippines, Uganda, etc. Altogether there were 70 participants. For the movie screenings, every single work shown was accompanied by a lecture that explained the message of the film in simple terms. Q&A sessions were held in real time through video chats, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for all of the participants to take part.

CON-CAN’s movie selection was not based on providing answers to the viewers. Rather, it focused on giving them a chance to think for themselves. The reactions of the students of various nationalities made for a very exciting screening. One film that particularly stood out was Lost Paradise, a film about problems between Israel and Palestine. However, the American students, who seem like they would know a lot about Israel, didn’t react to it much. The film depicts the forbidden love between an Arab and a Jew, but it’s expressed as a metaphor based on the character’s outfits. The American students didn’t have much knowledge of the clothing styles of Middle Eastern peoples, so it seems that the primary message of the movie was difficult for them to pick up. The difference in available information and education between urban and rural areas of America also seems to have been a slight factor.

There was another film didn’t get much reaction. The film Ata is about a Turkish woman who travels to France to meet with her lover. She is forced to face unexpected loneliness and hardship until she comes across an Uyghur man who shares her feelings of loneliness and separation. The film depicts their emotional exchanges, but the reaction from the American and Japanese students was small. However, the female exchange student from Malaysia had a very strong reaction to the film. Even though she didn’t understand the linguistic connection between Turkish and Uyghur, the loneliness and unease of living in a foreign land without anyone to depend upon struck a chord within her. Her own experiences lined up with the message of the film, so she felt very strongly about it.

It is important to increase your own understanding through self-done investigation and study instead of just accepting everything. Taking the initiative and researching things will allow you to gain much better insight. This holds true for the Hiroshima bombing as well. American students in American public schools only hear the American side of that story, and it was clear that that had influenced their point of view.

Short films are interesting in that they can cover varied cultural topics, present differing societal opinions, provoke deep thought, and give you a chance to make up your own mind about diverse subjects, all within a short amount of time. The experience is far different than Hollywood’s movie business, TV, and other forms of mass media which provide non-interactive information to be simply consumed. Literature, film, art, and other independent works are important tools in helping you scrutinize and review the news that is decided upon by those with power. They’re the key to helping you find opinions and information networks outside of the mainstream. Films can’t change the world, but perhaps they can stir the hearts of those who can.

We at CON-CAN are extremely grateful for all of the volunteers from all over the world and for our partners who provided us with this opportunity. We would also like to thank Hiroshima Jogakuin University for holding this important seminar, inviting foreign students, providing homestays and running workshops, and for giving us the opportunity to hold this film screening at the seminar. Finally, we are very grateful to Mr. Hirose of Kyoto Indies and the support from everyone at the Media Research Institute, Inc.

<Event Summary>
Hiroshima Jogakuin University Peace Seminar https://sites.google.com/site/hjusummerseminar/home
Date and Time: 8/5/2012 (Sunday) 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM.
Location: Hiroshima Jogakuin University Hinohara Hall 5F Assembly Hall
http://www.hju.ac.jp/life/establishment/index.html?footer=link