Two female filmmakers come to UC Irvine this week to discuss their projects about women caught in the middle of war and children mostly caught up in human slavery around the world.
One, entertainment brand heir Abigail E. Disney, is bringing even more star power: Academy Award winner Geena Davis. She narrates a film in the five-part PBS documentary Women, War & Peace that includes the Disney-directed documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
Disney, Davis and Roxanne Varzi, a UCI associate professor of anthropology and film & media studies, mark the Southern California debut of Women, War & Peace with a panel discussion and preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Student Center's Pacific Ballroom.
PBS SoCal and UCI's Center for Living Peace co-sponsor the event, which is moderated by Newport Beach philanthropist Kelly Smith. She founded the Center for Living Peace, which offers classes and programs on self-discovery, effective communication, safeguarding the environment, and arts and culture.
Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and is a spokeswoman for Women & Girls Lead, a public media initiative designed to rally girls around the world to address 21st century challenges.
Disney, the daughter of Roy E. Disney, granddaughter of Roy O. Disney and niece of Walt Disney, has been involved in several women empowerment issues around the world and is an executive producer of the five-part PBS series. Her segment tells the story of Liberian women who came together to pray, protest and ultimately bring about the end of a bloody civil war. It was just announced Friday that the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female president and her compatriot and peace activist Leymah Gbowee, as well as a third woman: Yemen's pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman. These women, like those in Women, War & Peace, were thrust as targets and peace brokers of wars waged by male-dominated gangs, warlords and insurgents in conflicts raging from Bosnia to Afghanistan and Colombia to Liberia.
Varzi, who was 8 in 1979 when her Iranian father and American mother left Iran, returned in 2000 to make a documentary about the physical and emotional scars of the Iran-Iraq War.
"Wars, especially long ones, tend to define generations," she says in a UCI statement about the panel. "When I returned to Iran, I was worried that I wouldn't fit in. I had been teased in the U.S. about being Iranian and stopped speaking Persian in public, so I lost my skills. But I found that what distinguished me from other Iranians of my generation was not my Americanness but the fact that I hadn't lived through war."
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She continues, "Wars leave an enormous debt and mark—not just on those who physically fight them, but those at home whose resources are pulled away to fight the war, whether that's money for education or a parent, sibling or spouse. The way we can make a difference is through programs such as Women, War & Peace—by being educated, because ignorance fuels the fires of war."
The day after the Women, War & Peace program, filmmaker Jody Hassett Sanchez leads a discussion and screens her documentary SOLD: Fighting the New Global Slave Trade, which explores the lucrative human-trafficking industry. The writer, director and producer of the film appears at the free event sponsored by the Graduate Christian Fellowship at 7:30 p.m. in UCI's HIB 100.
Sanchez, who spent 17 years in network television news, mostly at ABC and CNN, is now president of Pointy Shoe Productions, which focuses on issues of faith and culture. In 2006, she began preproduction on SOLD, which exposes modern slavery through the personal accounts of former slaves and abolitionists. Many slaves are children.
"It's going to take a broad coalition of people of different faiths and different politics who are willing to put aside their differences to end slavery today, just as it required 200 years ago in the UK," Sanchez recently told UCI's New University.