ITVS Joins Filmmakers and Partners at the Geneva Forum on Social Change

Posted on June 10, 2009

ITVS and the University of Geneva's International Organizations MBA Program, in collaboration with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and the U.S. Mission to Geneva, recently presented the Geneva Forum on Social Change at the Geneva International Conference Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. More than 1,000 people attended to discuss key issues facing communities around the globe, with a focus on the uses of documentary film as a tool for education and policy making in international public affairs. ITVS Director of Communications Dennis Palmieri attended the event and shares some of the highlights and reflects on its impact.

The Geneva Forum on Social Change was a whirlwind two-day international event that paired 10 ITVS International documentary and social issue films with six panel discussions, three keynote speakers—including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and two workshops on the strategic use of film in public affairs and education…and if that sounds like an action-packed couple of days, well you don’t know the half of it! The event attracted more than 1,000 people––principally from Geneva’s corps of international NGOs and IOs—including United Nation agencies like the World Food Program, IAEA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNESCO and others. Students from Geneva University also came out in strong numbers, notably for the films, and even more notably for the Golden Globe winner WALTZ WITH BASHIR. The event drew from beyond Geneva’s close circle to include documentary filmmakers and broadcasters from around Europe and America, and a number of special guests who really made for an amazing two days of engagement, international exchange and excellent movie watching. Stealing the show was the hour long and clearly extemporaneous keynote address by Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose message focused on the need for people to be engaged in projects like this one. “You are all wonderful human beings who bring God’s gifts to the world,” he told the audience.

Another highlight included the closing address by filmmaker Nick Francis, who detailed his continuing work on international trade issues through his landmark film BLACK GOLD, which aired on PBS’s Independent Lens in 2008. Check out the video below where Nick discusses the impact of his film at the forum. Rounding out the main speakers was the passionate Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of the World YWCA, whose remarks hammered home the need for a continued focus on human rights and empowerment for women—a perfect match for the launch of ITVS ‘s brand new Classroom product, International Edition Vol. 1: Women’s Empowerment, which was unveiled and distributed during ITVS’s film and education workshop the same day as Gumbonzvanda’s rousing remarks. Other ITVS filmmakers attending and presenting at the event included Daniel Junge (IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA), Brigitte Brault (AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED) and a surprise visit from Danny Hakim, who flew in from Israel to introduce his film SHADYA

The event was a collaborative effort by ITVS, the Naval Postgraduate School, the U.S. Mission to Geneva, and the incredibly talented and committed students of the University of Geneva’s International Organizations MBA Program, who really worked hard to make the forum such a great success. In particular, our thanks go out to the organizing committee; Patrick Huber, Marshall Sitten, Violaine Beix, and Catherine Siegel, who shouldered a huge burden to deliver such a great success. Beyond the great films and probing discussions, the real success was in bringing together so many people from so many diverse backgrounds to discuss pressing issues and develop better answers. I’m not sure if we found any, but the inaugural Geneva Forum on Social Change definitely made a contribution to some of the ongoing conversations among the people who are in a position to make that change, and ITVS was very much at the table.

 -Dennis 

Want to know more about the impact of ITVS International films? Watch the video interview below with Nick Francis, who's film BLACK GOLD aired on PBS's Independent Lens in 2008 (TRT: 6:00 minutes).    

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