Our Call to Copenhagen

As John mentioned in the previous post, I ended up helping the Parliament’s Jenny Douglas realize a video project that materialized during the conference itself: an official message from the conference attendees (representatives of the world’s religions) to the leaders discussing climate change in Copenhagen. It was an interesting challenge to complete it on such a short timeframe (we basically just had part of one day, before we were getting on the plane back to the US). Here is the version of the video I was working on with Parliament Council Executive Director Rev. Dirk Ficca in the clip in John’s last post (below):

The Parliament staff is constantly having to find a balance in such a diverse interfaith organization in which everything is being accurately represented. They are stuck between the secular world, much of which is (rightly) suspicious of the ways religions have been cynically used to repress and oppress, and those in religious communities (particularly more extreme or fundamentalist) who are skeptical of different faiths trying to find points of commonality and collaboration. We saw a very literal illustration of this in-betweenness of the Parliament by interviewing the few protestors who showed up outside to decry the conference–a small group of Evangelical Christians and another of atheists.

So, as you can see in the behind-the-scenes footage in the previous post, Rev. Ficca struggles to make sure that the Parliament and the religions it includes are accurately represented: he suggests that the Bhuddist monk might go near the end, since his message is a little more universally understood to a potential predominantly secular audience of scientists and politicians at Copenhagen. The most important change he wanted made in the cut of the video above was to remove a “theologically problematic” statement by one of our spirited interview subjects: Rev. Ficca said it could cause trouble to include Sikh filmmaker Valarie Kaur’s assertion that “all religious faiths preach…oneness.” While I understood his concern (especially as the video was to “represent the views” of the Parliament itself), it was a shame to have to elide that small piece, because I couldn’t find a really elegant way to do that, so it breaks up the flow of her passionate speech somewhat:

You’ll also notice in this final version that a brief message from Dr. Stephen Perkins has been added near the end (right after Valarie Kaur). You can see Rev. Ficca introduce the video to Dr. Perkins at the end of the behind-the-scenes editing footage below. Upon watching the video, Dr. Perkins suggested that the message seemed a bit too wishful and needed to communicate the power that religious communities have — that they are ready to take action to help realize the political leaders’ goals, and that there will be consequences for the leaders if they do not accomplish what needs to be done at Copenhagen. The Parliament Council staffers suggested that Dr. Perkins himself would be a good person to deliver that particular sentiment, so we went out into the hall and shot him then and there.

It was definitely an enlightening experience to see the kind of decisions that Rev. Ficca decided had to make for political considerations rather than artistic ones, which was more the direction I was coming from. Seeing that on the ground made me have a little more empathy for the nation’s leaders gathering at Copenhagen, where this video was to be delivered to the media by Martin Frick, from the Global Humanitarian Forum. Those leaders are constantly having to manage perceptions, while speaking to so many different audiences at the same time — international, national, members of different political parties and different media outlets. Still, seems like right now they need to wake up and rise above all that to do the right thing.

— Eliot

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