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26-09-2008 by Tracy Anderson

Should we go to school, or a movie?

Tired of sitting in class all day? Bored of reading textbooks that go in one eye and out the other? Why not beg your teacher to take you to a movie instead?

Amnesty International’s Pacific Regional Office is hosting its annual human rights film festival from November 13 -16, 2008. Though all of the films are engaging and informative for youth, Amnesty is hoping teachers will bring their classes to come watch two films in particular this year: War Dance and A World Without Water.

I had the opportunity to watch both of these films and they are amazing. There was not a single moment in War Dance where the audience was not either laughing hysterically or crying our eyes out. War Dance documents the journey of three students from a refugee camp in northern Uganda who overcome all odds to participate in the prestigious national dance and music competition. The war in Uganda ripped the lives of these children apart – one witnessed her parents brutal killings, one was abducted and forced to be a child soldier, and the other must raise her younger siblings while struggling to remain in school and in this event. Their passion for music and dance helps them deal with their trauma, but also is the embodiment of their message that they are more than just victims of this conflict. They are survivors. And they are music.

A World Without Water follows the lives of people around the world who are directly affected by the water crisis. A family in Bolivia walk for miles each day in hopes of finding water to survive, ironically there is a water plant just around the corner from their house. Farmers in India face crop failure and loss of life as a Coca Cola factory dries up their wells. These are just some of the human stories surrounding the dilemma of whether water is a commodity or a human right.

Both of these films offer the perfect opportunity to learn something important in an enjoyable medium. Living in Canada where water is abundant and accessible, where our major conflict is who to elect for prime minister and the price of gas, world issues and human rights abuses can seem miles away and at times unimportant to our own daily needs. These films are eye opening and place the viewer in the heart of the individuals and families in these films. They give us an hour or so to walk in their shoes. Suddenly, whether I have the latest smart phone seems less important.

The educational value of these films can be intensified by sharing the experience with one’s class. After watching the films, classes can share their impressions, and teachers can offer more information on the subject matters. Armed with knowledge and empathy, just maybe, this will be the generation of youth that will actually change the world.

So, ask your teachers to take you to a movie!

Both films are playing at the Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St at Davie, Vancouver. Cost is $2 per student. Pre-registration is required due to limited seating.

War Dance (rated 14A / 105 min) – Thursday, November 13 @ 12:30 pm

A World Without Water (PG / 78 min) – Friday, November 14 @ 12:30 pm

A question and answer session will follow each of the films.

For further information have your teachers contact Don Wright, Regional Development Coordinator at: Amnesty International – Pacific Regional Office at dwright@amnesty.ca or call 604-294-5160

Teachers’ Guide for War Dance can be found at


TRACY ANDERSON is currently an intern at Amnesty International’s Pacific Regional Office.