Friday, April 18, 2008

Pangea Day

At the Skoll Foundation's annual think-fest for social entrepreneurs at Oxford University a few weeks ago, Ken Brecher, a social anthropologist and executive director of the Sundance Institute—organizers of the annual Sundance film festival—defined good storytelling as an increasingly powerful tool for social change globally. "...Storytelling is the refusal to be laid low, incapacitated; it helps us to understand the meaning of things, not simply the value...The purpose of a good storytelling," he said, "is to assist us all to understand and to operate in the open and not wildly in the dark."

To be sure, documentary film—images, captured words, sounds—is the premier art form in today's globalizing world, Brecher believes: it is the medium of the moment. "At any one time," he says, "there is only one art form that is speaking. Once it was dance, then it was poetry, then the short story. Today it is film, and it feels to me that we need to make that connection now if we really want to see change happen in the world."

Indeed. This blog, Cause Global, is a new blog—one that will cover this art form-of-the-moment and the connections it makes (and attempts to make) globally. Ultimately, this blog will track some of the news and ideas and people in today's world who are seeking to use social media to to make a difference, affect change, and use the Web to make solutions to common social problems profitable—and real. Why this? I'm a journalist, and for me it's all about covering the unlikely alliances and conversations that serve as catalysts to social change and problem-solving around common challenges. Storytelling is a big part of today's social change movement—one that packs the emotional resonance to cut through the noise of everyday media. "In storytelling," says Brecher, "you have to incline the ears of your heart."

Storytelling moves to the masses this spring with Pangea Day, documentary filmmaker Jenhane Noujaim's 2006 TED Festival dream-come-true. Noujaim, whose 2004 film, Control Room, exposed the divergent ways Arabs and the West covered the onset and outbreak of the Iraq war, is one of the catalysts behind this spring's globally-produced Pangea Day, scheduled for May 10. The live event is planned as a simulcast of films, speakers, and music; sites in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked live that day to produce a 4-hour program, which will air on the Internet, television, digital cinemas, and mobile phones.

Raised in both Egypt and the United States, Noujaim says her aim is to explore culture as a driving force for both conflict and possibility. "I want to use the power of film to bridge gaps between people," she says. "...How are people supposed to communicate with each other globally...or move together into the future...when their stories aren't being told?"

What do you think? Check out the official trailer for Pangea Day HERE.

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