Weaving Life: Film and Peace

Today I got the chance to attend a showing of Weaving Life, a student created documentary about the life and works of Dan Terry. Check out the trailer here. Dan Terry was a humanitarian who worked to help communities in Afghanistan. He was brutally assassinated with ten others while on a medical mission.  The documentary shared stories of Dan’s work, his family life, and his untimely death. The film included photographs taken by Dan, interviews with his friends and family, and sound bites by the students making the film with their thoughts.

The big thing that set Dan apart from other humanitarians was how he dealt with people. The way he  made a difference, was by first trying to get to know people in the community as individuals. He would just try to make friends, and through that find what they needed. His daughter spoke about her childhood and his role as a father. His wife shared stories about how they met, and how they escaped from a troubled area using vehicles that Dan had rigged with flotation devices, allowing them to cross the river. Two of Dan’s closest friends shared stories of his work and relationships. All of the stories giving very vivid images of Dan’s personality and the pure fun that he had while living in Afghanistan.

I spoke with Paulette Moore, our professor and the producer of Weaving Life, about film-making and peacebuilding and especially how this came into play in the Weaving Life documentary:

Arts create a space to be reflective and to create something in away where we are not in competition. In documentaries especially, you learn that it is a place of relationship and responsibility. This is a story of a violent death and a grieving family. When the team entered this relationship, they wanted to be sure to honor that story. They wanted to be sure that they were co-creating with the family and sharing, not stealing their story. It was important to them to not “capture” the story, but to cherish the person as well by creating a partnership with the family.

It is important to bring humility to the process because of the amount of power that comes with having a camera. If you approach a situation like this with humility, the family feels heard and it allows for grieving. In fact, the family has said that the whole process of seeing the film come together has allowed them to grieve and that they had not yet had a way to do so.

The way that the students approached the family in Nashville was especially important. The students were careful to respectfully react with the story, but also to be respectful of the family’s home, which Dan’s family insisted that they stay in during their time in Nashville. Before leaving, they left flowers and a card to thank the family. The love tha

t the students had for the family was certainly portrayed on the screen. This was pivotal, because in order to have transformative film-making, it is necessary to be active in falling for the characters and the story. This is the only way that the space can be made to honor a story.

The fact that the students are shown and that they reflect on Dan shows vulnerability. If we all listened to each other in the way that the team listened about Dan, our lives and relationships could be much richer. It’s a strong metaphor for how we can be enchanted by each others’ lives.