Last week I was invited to the screening of a feature-length documentary film entitled: A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake. The film was produced by the Global Arts Corps and is directed by Michael Lessac, the founder of Global Arts. The film has occupied my thinking over the last few days.
The Global Arts Corps is a group of artists who use theatre “as a catalyst for dialogue, as a way to shift perspectives, and as a means through which to bring about understanding and empathy.”
The film we reviewed was based on the question Nelson Mandela raised when he became president of South Africa: “Can we forgive the past to survive the future?” The movie follows a group of actors and musicians who perform material from the Truth and Reconciliation Panels in South Africa. The re-enactments of these conversations are performed in front of people from different sides of conflicts, in places like Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Rwanda and Cambodia and used to facilitate reconciliation workshops.
The film helps the viewer understand that walls don’t work; anger is often passed on from one generation to another over time and eventually the thread of why and where the anger began is lost, yet remains. You can imagine that during the talkback with the director, questions were raised about the tensions and anger that are so prevalent in our own country. Shouldn’t we have “truth and reconciliation” conversations in the United States and think about our future?
We all have our “treasured wounds” but our world is far from countries where genocide, violent conflict and cultural, religious and racial divides have led to war and destruction, anger and hate. In Soul Mountain, a book that won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gao Xingjian writes: “Life is probably a tangle of love and hate permanently knotted together.” Understanding this, we must all work together to live and work in a peaceful society that is held together with seamless grace.