Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pass Truth Through Fire

Commit a crime,
and the earth is made of glass.*
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

On April 26, an important documentary, Earth Made of Glass, will premiere in New York City at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Directed by Deborah Scranton, who is known for using technology to enable ordinary people to show us the meaning of their lives, the film fundamentally is about the search for truth — and the struggle to expose it — and the need to forgive what seems unforgivable.  It comprises stories about two very different men who come face to face with a strong and understandable desire for revenge and find the courage to make the only decision possible—for them.

One of the film's key protagonists is Rwandan president Paul Kagame who, in trying to lead his nation to reconciliation, aims to "set the record straight" about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 800,000 to 1 million people were killed and in which the French government played a role unknown at the time. (See Human Rights Watch's report, "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rawanda".) In his endeavor, Kagame, called by Time magazine "the face of emerging African leadership", soon enough learns that there is truth and then there are facts, and knowing how to distinguish the one from the other is necessary to come out whole.

The truth will pass through the fire
but will not burn.
~ Rwandan Proverb

The film's other protagonist is Jean Pierre Sagahutu, who survived the genocide but lost his entire family: parents, sisters, brothers. Jean Pierre's quest is to uncover the clues he needs to find if he is ever to understand his father's unsolved killing.

Both Kagame and Jean Pierre "pass through the fire" of choice. What we might learn from their struggles is itself a story, of what it means to "start small", a person at a time, and take a stand — to put down weapons, walk away from violence, open the heart to forgiveness.

Scranton writes in her director's statement, "When you start a film, the journey that awaits you can never be fully imagined." By the end of her Rwanda project, she comes to believe that "[t]his small country in Africa could lead the way to peace by providing a model for ending hatred and violence throughout the world."

Scranton is no stranger to war and its consequences and the stories it produces. She put cameras in the hands of National Guard soldiers at Camp Anaconda in Iraq to create her award-winning documentary The War Tapes and created a television documentary, Stories from Silence, Witness to War, in which World War II veterans in Goshen, New Hampshire, tell their stories. Now, she is working on a new film about the U.S. - Mexico immigration-and-border story that, she says she aims to tell "from the inside out", through the eyes of Border Patrol officers, ranchers, and the humanitarians who place water in the desert for the illegal border-crossers.

Scranton gave a TedTalk in 2007 in which she talks about the making of The War Tapes, which premiered at Tribeca in 2006. Go here for that talk. Scranton's Director's Statement about the film is here. An interview with Scranton about the film is here.

Below is the powerful and moving trailer for Earth Made of Glass.  (Thanks to TED for bringing this film to attention on its own blog.) Follow the film on FaceBook.

* The complete Emerson quote: "There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass."


David Bennett said...

I'll look out for the film

"Commit a crime and the Earth is made of glass" It reminds me of the comment by the protagonist in Camus' 'The Stranger' when he shoots the man on the beach and says something like that he had broken the balance of the day.

One can ignore it, but one cannot live an unclenched life without acknowledging it.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hello lovely maureen,

I hadn't intended watching the Ted video this morning. But then, I watched the clip on her film on Rwanda. and then, I linked into Ted and then I watched and cried and wanted to stand up and applaud her just as the audience did and then I wanted to get out there and get making a difference in a bigger way.

And in the end, we can only do what we do. One film at a time. One person at a time. One action at a time. One heart at a time.

Thank you for once again inspiring me to keep doing whatever I can do make a difference in this beautiful world where healing is part of every day.



Kathleen said...

Maureen, Laura Waters Hinson is a young woman and an amateur. Her Documentary As We Forgive is stunning. She wasn't planning on making this, the story came to her. I also want to see Earth Made of Glass. These themes of atrocity, forgiveness, redemption - they need to be continually refreshed. David, I like the 'unclenched life'. Thx Maureen.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Thanks, Maureen ... this looks like a powerful film.

Billy Coffey said...

This looks like a stunning and thought provoking film. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for it.

Deborah Scranton said...

Thanks so much Maureen, really appreciate you writing about Earth Made of Glass and helping us get the word out on it.

all my best,
Deborah Scranton