Prizing Peace

in 14th Tromsø International Film Festival

by Shahla Nahid

There could be no more appropriate country than Norway to create a prize for films contributing to PEACE. The first edition this year naturally brought about the necessity of reflection on the prize itself and its definition . During a round table – organized by the festival and representatives of Tromso’s Peace Studies course (founded in 2002) – participants in the panel (including Babak Payami and myself) explained their points of view.

At the beginning, Vidar Vambheim, director of the Centre For Peace studies of the University of Tromsø, described the reasons behind this unusual and interesting initiative.

According to Vambheim, the idea came from a seminar on peace which took place in Stockholm three years ago. The participants – representatives from different war zones, people from Nordic countries and people from other cultures – forwarded the question of how attract the attention of the media to peace matters. One of the journalists said that the main problem with peace is that peace is not “sexy” enough. Then everybody agreed that the problem is actually that the subjects referring to peace never make it onto the front pages of the newspapers. Vambheim talked about his own experiences as a teacher, that whenever peace matters are put forward, the attention drops. However, if you talk about wars and violence, the attention increases enormously.

In addition, Vambheim said, another seminar had taken place some years previously on the subject of films and violence, asking if films were responsible of increasing violences.

There was also an educational aim, because of the fact that teenagers in Norway, although they are living in a peaceful country, don’t care about peace and are more interested in violent movies. It is clear that movies are attractive because they move us, they touch us directly and tell stories. And when you start to tell a story, you can catch people’s attentions.

Media and TV especially are important in the giving of messages. They naturally give much more attention to war than to peace and peace-building. The media are very important in deciding whether a war or a conflict is “legitimate” or not. But when comes the time of speaking of peace and after war peace building, they are quite inefficient.

What then about movies? As they are “story-tellers”, they can be taken as a means of imparting information, they are attractive, they can be shown in another countries, they can take us, like literature, in the world of dreams. Of course dreams can become – or not become – realities in real life but they can exist in movies. And this can give us hope.

These were the main reasons behind creating this prize, but the question is open – interested people can try to rethink it or propose some fields of research of their own.

As far as my opinion is concerned, I should say that we are not naïve and we all know that we live in a world where the rules of war and peace are settled in spite of the interest of people of different countries. But we can hope that these small steps could draw attention, or give some awareness about the fragility of the utmost important matter for any human being : peace and prosperity . So I find this is a great initiative – I wish a long life to Tromso’s Peace Prize.

Good luck.