Overview

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THE WORLD MEMORY FILM PROJECT
“Exit Xenocide”
The Revolution Starts with Your Film!

A CROWD-SOURCED DOCUMENTARY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WORLDWIDE

Please note: “Xenocide” is a term we coined from combining “xenophobia” and “genocide”. It refers to the “killing of the other”. It covers the most heinous acts of humans singling out groups and trying to destroy them. Generally speaking, it includes any crime that previously could be termed genocide, but adds crimes of similar magnitude committed for ideological, political, or social reasons. We feel we are offering a new term for a new generation, thereby re-energizing the desire to learn about the past, as a pathway to building a more hopeful future. Moreover, by adding xenophobic attitudes to this paradigm, we emphasize the important pathways to genocidal actions that very often begin with racism, prejudice, demeaning language, and exclusion.

Under the patronage of the Office of the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and together with other international institutions, World Memory Films, led by international journalist and film producer Michael Kirtley, is launching for 2014 and beyond an unparalleled social experiment. Called The World Memory Film Project (WMFP), the project’s goal is to invite young people from around the world, to become positively engaged in the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide, through the power of personal creativity.

Our initial impetus involves the making of a feature-length documentary film drawn mainly from thousands of creative “video stories” solicited from internet enthusiasts in various nations (“crowdsourcing”) through social media and other vectors. These short personal films will relate participants’ emotional reactions to, personal memories of, or artistic expressions against racism, xenophobia, and genocidal actions committed by oppressive regimes and groups.

Our longer-term aspiration is to mobilize an “army” of young activists who use their passion and civic influence to commemorate past victims and help prevent such atrocities in the future, by promoting mutual respect and tolerance, love of others, and the beauty of diversity.

Our first objective is to promote understanding of the commonalities of all xenocidal actions, wherever they took place, since the beginning of the 20th century. These include, among others, those that took place in Bosnia (Srebrenica), Cambodia, China, East Timor, Europe under the Nazis, Indonesia, North Korea, Rwanda, the former Soviet Bloc, Sudan (Darfur), and against indigenous peoples. Along with this understanding, we wish to show how xenocides have a ripple effect on everyone who hears about them, even those not directly affected.

Our second objective is to empower young people through personal expression to create a collective voice for the prevention of future xenocides. We will do this via social media community-building around the world. Through this community we will encourage grass-roots activism, solidarity with victims, and creative empathy.

The WMFP will carry out these objectives in a manner that is interactive, reconciliatory, emotional (rather than purely historical), healing, hopeful, and forward looking.

The following gives a nutshell overview of the aims and methods of the WMFP:

Create a feature-length documentary for theatrical release, with a potential ready-made audience in the millions, since most of its visual content will have been solicited from that same audience (who in a sense therefore become the “filmmakers”). The manner of building this audience will be through carefully-planned ads and teasers distributed through social media and other methods, as well as showcasing incoming video stories on our web site.

— Raise awareness of the impact of crimes against humanity committed by communist regimes and others, through soliciting indirect emotional memory as well as direct memory of the events. (For example, what was the trauma of Soviet oppression on Americans during the Cold War? What is the distress felt by Westerners reacting to Darfur or Libya?)

— Promote a reconciliatory view of history, helping youth distinguish between perpetrators or regimes that commit crimes against humanity and the nations and people they represent today.

— Explore ways to anticipate xenocidal oppression through a better understanding of the “anatomy” of xenocide. Solicit video stories that highlight these themes through an exploration of our collective memory of personal experience (direct or indirect) relating to such crimes.

— Improve youth understanding of how the past influences the present, thereby encouraging them to tackle current issues with activism, compassion, and foresight.

— Sensitize millions of youth to potential or ongoing present-day xenocides around the World, and encourage pro-active citizenship to deal with such issues.

The backbone of our documentary will draw from thousands of self-generated video stories uploaded to the WMFP website by “videomakers” worldwide. While all appropriate uploaded videos will be viewable on the web site, a certain number of them will be selected to become part of the feature-length documentary. In this way, the worldwide internet community will become the “creators” of the finished film.

We encourage creativity and imaginative expression, but all videos must relate to the memory of 20th or 21st century xenocidal crimes perpetrated by regimes or ethnic/cultural groups against large groups of people, within the context of pre-determined standards to define xenocide. All videos will need to be less than three minutes in length, although we will ask participants to retain their source material, for possible future use. The video source material can be gathered on a variety of formats — from a mobile phone camera to a top-of-the-line production studio.

What counts the most is story quality, not production quality.

The content of these crowd-sourced video stories will fall into several broad categories, including but not limited to the following:

1)    Telling how you felt when you heard about a specific xenocidal event which you did not experience directly. This would preferably include a personal experience and reaction. For example, did you feel powerless, angry, fearful, insensitive, or compassionate? This could be done alone or in a small group, in the form of a personal narrative or an artistic expression — such as a poem, a song, a dance, or a visually creative video.

2)    Telling a story about your own family members who were victims of xenocidal behavior. Your story should also include how this family situation affected you personally.

3)    Similarly, telling a story about from your own family members or cultural group who were perpetrators of xenocidal behavior, or who were accused of such behavior, justly or unjustly. Your story should also include how this family situation affected you personally.

4)    Interviewing victims of xenocidal behavior, or their descendants. These could be drawn from your own family or cultural community, or from a friend or neighbor or anyone else who has directly or indirectly suffered because of xenocide.

5)    Interviewing perpetrators of xenocidal behavior, or people from cultural groups who have been accused of such behavior (justly or unjustly), or their descendants. These could be drawn from your own family or cultural community, or from a friend or neighbor or anyone else who has directly or indirectly been accused of causing others to suffer during xenocidal activities.

6)    Interviewing descendants of victims and perpetrators together. (If you decide to pursue this angle, please discuss the best approach with us before beginning such discussions, so we can guide you through this delicate process.)

7)    Telling a story about your own or someone else’s civic courage to prevent xenocides, to promote solidarity with victims of xenocide, or to encourage healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of a xenocidal situation.

8)    Expressing your reaction to one of the other video stories that has been posted. These should be about the subject matter of the other story, not a personal reaction to the storyteller. Positive or supportive reactions are preferred. Ridicule, or content that denies the reality or emotions of another storyteller, will not be deemed appropriate.

We realize that many of history’s most brutal crimes against humanity took place before the 20th century (atrocities against Native Americans, the African Slave Trade, etc.). However, we have decided to limit the scope of this project to the period since 1900, roughly corresponding to a “modern” era of such barbarity.

Because of the universal appeal we aspire to, all videos should be submitted in English. If they are submitted in another language, they should be subtitled by the video storyteller.

The World Memory Film Project is currently in the phase of seeking international partners and fundraising. We already have institutional partners in Europe and in Morocco, and plan on developing a network in more than thirty countries.