This posting must begin with the recognition that the Yankees were playing last night (and ultimately won) the World Series last night. Now keep in mind, that I do realize that it is incredibly ethnocentric for the US to call the North American baseball series a “World Event”. However, I was born and raised in NY and have not missed a World Series Yankee game in my life. So last night, while at the NAFSA conference, I debated whether to slip away from the TV to watch a 72 minute documentary about 4 Moroccan and 4 American students who spend a week traveling together. Boy am I glad that I did.
The film “Crossing Borders” by Arnd Wachter is POWERFUL. I cried and I laughed. It moved me to my core and reminded me why I usually cannot believe that someone pays me to create opportunities for dialogue across cultures, for better understanding across people and nations, and for the joy of watching students see the world through different lenses. As my friend and colleague James Leck, from Boston University, often says, “international educators are the quiet revolutionaries.” This film reminds me that there is nothing more true or important than the work that we do.
“Crossing Borders” is a documentary that follows 4 Moroccan and 4 American University students as they travel together in Morocco and in the process of discovering “The Other”, they discover themselves. This film is the brainchild of Director Arnd Wachter, who was raised in East Germany. It was his response to the events of 9/11 and the Iraq war – when we all asked ourselves the impossible question – how can I deal with living in a world with such violence and hatred? What can I do to change this? How can I make sure that I am not sitting by silently?
One of the challenges of being in international education is you often don’t get to experience, first hand, those “a-ha” moments that the students experience when they are in their host country. We know that they are happening, constantly, but we usually hear about them when they return, or if we’re lucky, via an email or skype conversation. What is remarkable about this film is that we witness 8 young people from 2 markedly different cultures experience those “a-ha” moments about each other as if we are sitting side by side with them. They bravely address 9/11, the media, stereotypes, dignity and respect, wealth and poverty, religion, their commonalities, ignorance, loneliness, family and so much more in such an incredibly honest and humorous way. Wachter does a magnificent job of representing the Moroccan culture. The transitions he uses between scenes, editing of 70 hours to a mere 72 minutes while effectively getting the message to the viewer, along with the quotes that he strategically places throughout the film, are nothing short of masterful.
That Wachter is anxious to bring the film to campuses around the world is particularly exciting. This film will be a very effective tool to create dialogue about religions and how they can better understand each other and create opportunities to dispell myths and work together. Wachter will provide materials about intercultural tension prior to each campus screening, will present the film and answer questions and will assist in the facilitation of dialogue about religion and culture. I cannot think of a more appropriate time in our history to advocate for this film to be seen.
After the screening, while wiping away tears, I thanked Wachter for his deeply meaningful, witty and educational film. I did not regret missing the final game of the World Series – as I watched something much more genious than Matsui’s 6 RBIs! Needless to say, I committed to spreading the word about this film. My hope is that you will do your part in helping to educate others about the opportunity to experience how these youth, with nothing but 7 days to spend together, were able to break down the supposed “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.
Please enjoy the trailer of the film and I look forward to your comments: