“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr
I don’t know how else to respond in times such as these, except to look to films about peace.
Peace in the world
Gandhi: Gandhi’s singular devotion to bring change through non-violent protest resulted in, among many accomplishments, the end of British colonial rule in India. This biopic, directed by Richard Attenborough, studies the life of a man who stood by his convictions and changed history through pacifism.
Grave of the Fireflies: Set in Kyoto during the end of WWII, this is a portrayal of the human cost of war, as two young orphaned siblings struggle for survival. The harrowing pathos is amplified in animation, directed by Isao Takahata, from Studio Ghibli.
Hair: Generally not a fan of musicals, this one takes its Vietnam-era diatribes and shapes them into a love story of a soldier about to set off to war, only to meet the young woman of his dreams. His new freewheeling, anti-war friends help him out – with devastating consequences. Let The Sunshine In indeed.
- Arna’s Children: A documentary about a youth theatre group in Palestine. The director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot and killed some years later.
- No Man’s Land: A multiple-award winning film directed by Danis Tanovic, it’s a story of a tiny trench holding a Bosnian and a Serb in 1993 that becomes no man’s land.
- Three Kings (dir: David O Russell), The Green Zone (dir: Paul Greengrass), Syriana (dir: Stephen Gaghan): There’s no shortage of films exploring the two recent/current American wars in Iraq. These three titles question who are the victors, and at what cost and with what repercussions.
- Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Stanley Kubrick directs Peter Sellers in multiple roles to create an ingenious parody about the Cold War.
Peace in our families
Secrets & Lies: The unhappiness of fragmented lives and never quite belonging leads to unexpected alliances. My favourite of director Mike Leigh’s work.
A Separation: A married couple separate, bringing complicated drama into their lives. Fine storytelling by director Asghar Farhadi had me holding my breath until the last moment.
Magnolia: From director Paul Thomas Anderson, this is a story about fathers (and frogs). Anger, humiliation and shame drive the different vignettes, as the players each search for redemption and peace.
- Good Bye, Lenin!: The Berlin Wall has fallen, but don’t tell Mother. A bittersweet comedy-drama by director Wolfgang Becker.
- Witness: An eight-year-old boy unwittingly becomes a witness to a murder. The Amish, the 80s and Harrison Ford come together in this slow-burning thriller by director Peter Weir.
- Tea With Mussolini: A community of elderly English and American women living in Florence during WWII, with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Lily Tomlin and Cher, by director Franco Zeffirelli.
Peace in our hearts
12 Angry Men: A jury contemplates a murder case with everyone convinced the young defendant is guilty – except for one man, who sets out to convince the rest of the boy’s innocence. Director Sidney Lumet takes one room, two hours, and 12 men to create one of cinema’s finest.
The Lost Weekend: A dark tale of an alcoholic is oddly uplifting as he sets out to crush his inner demons, from director Billy Wilder.
Persepolis: About a young woman coming of age during the Iranian Revolution and finding her own inner peace after the upheaval. Adapted from the graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, the film was co-directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: How far will you go to recover from heartbreak? As only writer Charlie Kaufman can tell it, directed by Michel Gondry.
- All About My Mother: A grieving mother goes to Barcelona to find peace among old loves and new friends. A more subdued but no less complex output from director Pedro Almodóvar.
- Dead Man Walking: A Sister helps a man on death row find spiritual peace, by director Tim Robbins.
“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realise you’re already in heaven now.” — Jack Kerouac
Some pop therapy for peace:
“It’s been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.” After being turned away from a whites-only motel, Sam Cooke wrote Change is Gonna Come, which became the anthem to the African-American civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Bootleg records by little-known American songwriter and singer Rodriguez became the anthem for the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1970s. From the song, I Wonder: “I wonder about the tears in children’s eyes. And I wonder about the soldier that dies. I wonder will this hatred ever end. I wonder and worry, my friend.” Watching the opening moments of his concert in the documentary Searching for Sugar Man will move even the most jaded soul to tears.