The Parliament of the World’s Religions featured a range of film-makers who shared their work and discussed the use of media as a tool for social change. A number of Baha’is showed films on a variety of themes, including inter-religious understanding, youth empowerment, the advancement of girls and women, and religious history.
Esther Maloney, a young film maker from Toronto co-presented a session on “The Role Media Plays in the Empowerment of Women and Girls.” She reflected on experience working in Toronto with the Baha’i-inspired Illumine Media project aimed at empowering young people to produce films with new narratives. “We wanted to learn about writing scripts featuring inspiring characters animated by their spiritual qualities such as a sense of justice, dynamism, energy, capacity, truthfulness, and a desire to serve humanity,” said Maloney.
Because they adopted an attitude of learning, the project was able to engage a larger number of girls and young women in production roles – developing their capacity to the point where they have entered into the film industry.
The empowerment of girls was also a theme in a session led by May Taherzadeh, who showed and discussed her short film, Mercy’s Blessing. The fictional drama is about a brother and sister facing the challenge of staying in school despite their impoverished family living in a village in Malawi. The screening room was full for the film, the story of sacrifice and resilience illustrated the importance of educating girls in the face of the most daunting circumstances.
A number of other initiatives displayed efforts to build inter-religious understanding through the innovative use of film. Producers Mary Darling and Clark Donnelly joined together with cast members of the television series Little Mosque on the Prairie to discuss how situational comedy can highlight and help to resolve prevalent prejudices and misunderstandings.
Another project, called Portraits of Faith, was presented and discussed by creator Daniel Epstein with his producer, Laura Friedmann. The project captures the personal experience of people from around the world, as they discuss the power of religion, spirituality and faith in their lives. It underlines the universality of spiritual experience, and the common humanity shared by diverse peoples.
One of the largest gatherings of people at the Parliament occurred at the screening of the film, The Gate, an historical documentary about the Báb, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith. The film was widely advertised throughout the Parliament, and around 1,000 people attended the screening and discussion with film-makers Steven Sarowitz, Edward Price, and Bob Hercules, together with Prof. Nader Saiedi.
*This article is the third in a three-part series on the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Toronto, 2018. Read the first and second articles here: 1) Baha’is prepare for the Parliament of the World’s Religions; 2) Parliament of the World’s Religions stimulates dialogue on inclusion