What film can do in a fragile world.
PUBLISHED: THE HILL: Changing America by Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor | Originally published on March 4, 2021
It is an enormous honor and a vital privilege to be able to share a cinematic prayer for life in actorvist Kat Kramer’s cinema series “Films that Change the World.”
Our ten years or really fifteen years in the making documentary “Walking Thunder: Ode to the African Elephant” is a prayer for the wildlife of the world, centered on the spirit of the elephant, but it is also a prayer for the spirit of childhood and wonder and the voice of the native peoples who are the guardians of what remains of the wilderness.
This year the theme of the series is “Sheroes” because women cohere the world, they give and sustain life, and are at the heart of human existence and increasingly it is the women of the world who are molding the future.
My trajectory began honoring a truly remarkable group of concerned mothers. In my early 20s the nuclear issue and the enormous money the U.S. had spent during the Cold War on nuclear weapons haunted me. Money which could have been spent to serve humanity, health, education and life in all its aspects, was spent on potential annihilation. Reagan was elected in 1980 and I have shuddered ever since. At 24 I started to produce a documentary about women with a young woman called Barbara who died very early at 55. Her tenacity of vision to make a film on those who made quilts for peace, convinced me of the necessity to collaborate with her to make a documentary that would bear witness. The quilts were made from the hands of those who give life, who are its caretakers, as a message of solidarity to those fighting for peace on this very fragile planet.
We followed the Boise Peace Quilt project for several years and the making of the most significant quilt the Joint Soviet American Peace Quilt presented to the chief arms negotiators in Geneva. We witnessed the heart of America holding ice cream socials in Idaho and went to Geneva with a message that we had to start to mold a better future: nuclear weapons need to be disarmed. We met the chief arms negotiators who made decisions on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The American negotiator believed as many still do, that having weapons deter war. Matriarchy met the patriarchy head on but with an article, a humble quilt, made from the utter devotion of mothers. The American chief arms negotiator was reluctant to meet with us at first. I spoke to his secretary and explained to him that the Russians had already met with the mothers from Idaho. It would be hard to explain to the media why the Americans could not meet with us. They let us in.
In 1987, the film was nominated for the Academy Award. The film did not defuse a single nuclear warhead or decrease the nuclear threat, but it bore witness to the extraordinary effort of women who give life before those who would endanger it in all its forms. For women do not wage war.