Film festival brings it all together

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Film is a lot like the Baha’i Faith, says Mithaq Kazimi. One brings together all the art forms. The other brings together all the peoples and religions of the world. The two combine also in Kazimi, a young Baha’i filmmaker and native of Afghanistan who founded the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival (DBIFF).

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DBIFF debuted in December at the 24th annual Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The public was invited to attend and some 600 people from around the country participated in this two day event. In the coming year, DBIFF plans to take its films on the road to several cities in the United States and abroad.

The films, which were submitted by Baha’is and other industry professionals from all over the world including Malaysia, Spain, the United States, New Zealand, Cambodia, Australia, Pakistan, France, Canada, Hungary, Ethiopia, India, and the United Kingdom, range from music videos to television programs and feature-length movies.

The shortest film runs shy of three minutes, the longest 117 minutes. Some premiered at DBIFF but Armed, a music video featuring well-known actors Alex Rocco and Eva La Rue, has been viewed by thousands on the Internet. And Donkey in Lahore, a documentary about the quixotic courtship of an Australian and a Pakistani, was screened at the respected Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

What binds these productions is their makers’ belief that their films will help contribute to the advancement of a new civilization. One of the reasons DBIFF was created is to introduce and recognize films with Baha’i themes, such as the oneness of God, of religion and of humanity. As each film was screened at the Grand Canyon conference, the audience discussed its themes and their applicability to people’s lives.

This year’s selection includes films that explore the power of prayer, forgiveness, justice, equality and the contributions of Baha’is to their communities around the world:

  • Little Mosque on the Prairie, a TV comedy about a small Muslim congregation learning to live in harmony with each other and with fellow residents of their fictional Canadian town.
  • Justice, a short film from France about two men on opposite sides of a jail cell: prisoner and visitor. They don’t know each other but they’re linked inextricably.
  • Tsehai Loves Learning, a TV show from Ethiopia that follows a 6-year-old giraffe as it learns about reading, writing and truthfulness.
  • Ardia, short film from Spain that shines a bright light on how we treat people who are different.

The festival founder himself aspires to make positive contributions to society through film. He has produced 16 Days in Afghanistan, a documentary on life after the fall of the Taliban, and Quenching the Light, a short film on the persecution of Baha’is in Iran that has been screened in many events and television stations.

Filmmakers and film fans are encouraged to participate as the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival takes place in different cities in 2009. Check the DBIFF site in the future for upcoming dates and locations.