The best films last far beyond their initial showing and, in capturing enduring values, acquire a timeless quality. The NFB Playlist on War and Peace that I have chosen contains films produced over the past few decades, but all of them speak to the issues underneath today’s headlines. Whether a graphic depiction of the horrors of nuclear war, a journey around the world to find “the other way,” or a heartfelt examination of the reasons to oppose war, these films are graceful and lucid in their depiction of what a culture of peace is all about.
It is a great paradox that, while most people now reject war as a means to resolve conflict, they are reluctant, perhaps even afraid, to embrace wholeheartedly the means to peace. Every year, the public pays tribute to fallen warriors of past conflicts. From time to time, some march against the idea of a new war. But we do not inculcate into our daily lives the very essence of peace so that it is constantly reflected in all the pageantry and policies of society. Although we honour the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, we shun the idea of making peace education compulsory for all children.
Advocates of a culture of peace hope to change this so that the operational norms of modern life become a respect for all life, rejection of violence, sharing with others, preservation of the planet, and acceptance of the common ground we all live on. The best, if not the only, way to bring this about is through education. Films are, of course, a blend of entertainment and education, and the films here vibrantly project the culture of peace.
You will meet many fascinating individuals who have faced up to the demands of peace: Helen Caldicott, the indefatigable physician who campaigns against the horrors of nuclear war; Velcrow Ripper, armed with only a camera, who peers into the heart and soul of cultures around the world; Ted and John Friesen, two Mennonite brothers from Winkler, Manitoba, who agonize over conscientious objection to participating in war. The towering figure of Jo Rotblat, the Polish nuclear scientist who turned his back on nuclear weapons, founded the Pugwash movement and won the Nobel Peace Prize, looms over this collection. The new NFB film on his life, The Strangest Dream, graphically captures his joyful strength and essential message: If you want peace, prepare for peace. With a probing boldness and artistic flair, that is exactly what these films do.
The Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., is an author, parliamentarian and diplomat who has specialized throughout his 35-year public career in peace and human security issues. He lectures widely on peace and nuclear disarmament themes. Mr. Roche was a Senator, Member of Parliament, Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament and Visiting Professor at the University of Alberta. He was elected Chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Committee at the 43rd General Assembly in 1988. The author of 19 books, his latest is his memoirs, Creative Dissent: A Politician’s Struggle for Peace, published by Novalis in 2008. Mr. Roche holds seven honourary doctorates from Canadian and American universities and has received numerous awards for his work for peace and non-violence, including the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation for World Peace award.