Stories of peace

THERE is conflict in parts of Mindanao that is sustained by the enmity and distrust among people that are fanned by the stories of conflict and war that hog the news. Ergo, let’s tell the stories of peace instead. It’s the same Mindanao we’re looking at, but focusing on the peace that people nurture and live in, not the conflict that has chained our attention for so long now.

This is the very rationale of “The Long Reach of Short Films – Telling Stories of Peace in Mindanao” encourages us to look at Mindanao with the peace lens and it will be shown in Davao City on April 19 and April 24.

“Our view of the conflicts in Mindanao is shaped by the stories we read, watch, and hear through the mainstream media. These stories are often centered on violence – killings, kidnappings, bombings, and other atrocities. Sadly, these stories shape our perception of the constraints of building a peaceful alternative for Mindanao. Of course, the realities of armed clashes, kidnappings, violence, and war crimes cannot be ignored. But at the same time, there are also many stories of hope, peace and reconciliation which often escape our attention,” the concept of the short films reads,” its concept reads.

Initiated by the forumZFD-Civil Peace Service, a German NGO working for peace in Mindanao, in partnership with the Mindanao Film Festival, a total of eight short films depicting stories of peace and conflict transformation in the six regions of Mindanao have been produced and shown in Manila, Cotabato, and Marawi since February 2016. As revealed, all six regions -- Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga Region, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) -- are represented by at least one filmmaker.

The Davao film showings will be on April 19, 2016, Tuesday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cinemateque Davao along Palma Gil Street, and on April 24, Sunday, 6 p.m to 9 p.m. at Room 74, Emerald Street, Gem Village in Maa. Some of the filmmakers will be present during the screening.

The short films, their directors, and brief descriptions provided by forumZFD are as follows:

"Upat Hinasil" directed by Zehry Ibn Muhammad reflects on the Zamboanga crisis in 2013. The characters of the film faced their respective trials in life, but despite these tribulations, they adapted different ways to continue their lives, represented by one element each, namely, Nur as fire, Fatima as earth, Muktar as air and Kapala as water.

"Digkilaan" directed by Nef Luczon follows the personal narrative of a Tanzanian priest doing missionary work in the hinterland villages of Iligan City. It turns out, as he comes to realization, there is one crucial factor as to why a long-lasting peace can be achievable - or not.

"Panicupan" directed by Keith Bacongco and Bagane Fiola tells of the barangay Panicupan in Pikit, North Cotabato, which is one of the "Spaces for Peace," where Moro, Lumad and Christian settlers have joined hands in upholding their harmonious relationship amid the conflict between the government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"Pagbarug Tu Pagtuon (The Right to Learn)" directed by Arbi Barbarona is a story of the plight of the Lumad for their rights to education and self-determination. It's been nearly a year that community school teacher Ricky Balilid joined his lumad students from Davao del Norte and their parents in an evacuation sanctuary in a church in Davao City.

"Entre Medio del Fin (In the Middle of an End)" directed by Ryanne Murcia tells the story of Khalil and Danny and how their figure out their lives after Ayesha, who promised to give them her child, decided to go back with Omar, the father of the child, who left her before.

"Kulahi" directed by Pam Chua urges the viewers to listen to the voices of the young Talaandig and their cry to reclaim land, traditions and identity.

"Dalem" directed by Haidie Sangkad featured children Karon, Nanding, and Ikang arguing about ownership and the future during one of their regular playtime.

"Under a Canopy of Light" directed by Teng Mangansakan summons memories and remembrances of an eventful day in summer 33 years ago that has sparked decades of long rido or clan war.

Contacted to give more details about their film Panicupan, Bacongco said that it was in 2001 when the barangay declared their area as a “Space for Peace”, the second village to be declared as such in Pikit, after Barangay Nalapaan.

“As a space for peace, it does not only mean free from actual shooting war. But free from biases or prejudices among the villagers,” Bacongco said in an email.

“This is a story that I’ve been following cover since 2000. While some people dread Pikit, it is a like a home to me. Only those who are from Pikit and those who are in love with this town can truly appreciate the ups and downs of this oldest town in Cotabato empire,” he said.

Derived from the word "sikop," which means to catch, villagers catch fish as a community in tributaries leading to Ligawasan Marsh.

“To catch fish with your bare hands is as difficult as achieving absolute peace even if it's just within your reach,” Bacongco adds.

forumZFD’s short films project intends to “o creatively document experiences and success stories of conflict transformation within conflict-affected communities in Mindanao; enrich the discourse on peace and conflict issues in Mindanao by bringing under-represented stories and stakeholders to public attention across the Philippines, and enhance the potentials of filmmaking for conflict transformation, reconciliation, and peace building.”

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