Two years ago TED awarded its annual prize to Jehane Noujaim, an Egyptian-born film maker best known for her document "Control Room" which chronicles the role of media in war. Her TED wish was that the whole world would have the opportunity to sit down together at a common time for several hours to enjoy a set of short films that represented universal themes. Pangea Day, May 10th, will provide that opportunity.
The Tribeca Film Festival hosted a discussion this week to promote Pangea Day. Held at the Director's Guild Theatre, Chris Anderson, the host of TED, moderated a panel that included Jehane, Christiane Amanpour, the famed CNN journalist, and Gideon Yago, the journalist largely credited with bringing the world's news to MTV. This 90 minutes gave me such hope for the future of this world, and the role that art, and particularly film, can play in bringing about social justice and mutual understanding. As Christiane Amanpour so brilliantly stated, "An attempt to understand someone else is the soul of diplomacy."
From the talk, the most poignant and powerful sentiment communicated by the films of Pangea Day is empathy. For example, an agency called Johannes Leonardo created a set of films that feature a choir of one nationality singing the national anthem of another nation. France sings US. US sings Mexico. Kenya sings India. The film of France singing the US was so powerful that I teared up and actually shivered. That feeling of compassion through music was indescribable.
Many of the short films are up on YouTube, and they will all be available on the Pangea website on May 11th. Not surprisingly, Jehane means "world" in Farsi. And in her closing thoughts of the talk she provided perhaps the best quote of empathy and understanding I have ever heard. "If we could read the diaries of our enemies we would find enough pain and sorrow to extinguish all hostility." It's my hope that the short films on Pangea Day will start us down that road.