Poet pacifism 

Voices In Wartime film screening at MY Place

What: Voices In Wartime

Where: MY Millennium Place Theatre

When: Saturday, April 2, 7 p.m.

Admission: Free

A feature length American documentary film examining the experience of war through the words of poets is screening in the theatre at MY Millennium Place this weekend.

Voices In Wartime juxtaposes poetry with images of war and commentary by soldiers, historians and combat experts.

The poet subjects are both ancient and modern, world-renowned and unknowns, and hail from all corners of the world. Voices range from American classics such as Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to modern hip-hop/spoken word artists like Saul Williams. From Enheduanna, an ancient priestess and noblewoman of ancient Sumeria (now Iraq) writing circa 2,300 B.C., to Alexandra Sanyal, a nine-year-old poet from Boston. From British soldier-poets such as Wilfred Owen and Sigfried Sassoon to women poets who have lost sons, husbands, brothers and fathers to war.

The film was executive produced by Andy Himes, an American technology journalist and peace activist who was inspired by the power of poetry after a 2003 protest by poets against an event organized by the Bush administration to celebrate several late poets known for their fervent anti-war beliefs.

"This is not a film about famous poets," Himes told the Los Angeles Times last September. "It's a film about voices in wartime and this natural, powerful, human impulse to write poetry to express your emotions, to tell a story."

The film premiered Sept. 11, 2004 with 100 simultaneous showings in libraries and colleges. It has gone on to screen at several film festivals throughout the U.S. A theatrical release is scheduled for April 8.

Saturday’s local screening is a special showing in advance of the official release organized and sponsored by Whistler resident Gary Vasseur, a long-time friend of Himes, who says he has been deeply moved by the film.

"I think this is an important film and it deserves a wide audience," Vasseur said. "Poets specialize in emotions. Their voices can make people aware of the brutal reality that’s going on. It’s a very powerful medium."

Despite the definitive anti-war message procured by the film and a declaration of his own pacifism and opposition to the current war in Iraq, Vasseur hedges on describing Voices In Wartime as a "protest film."

"I don’t think it’s a Michael Moore, in-your-face kind of a thing," he said. "It just leaves you with something to think about."

The filmmakers are hoping people will continue to think about the issues raised by Voices In Wartime after the last credit has rolled off the screen. The film has spawned the Voices In Wartime network, a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing the peace initiatives inspired by the film’s subjects.

The Network’s director, Jan Bultmann, also an investor in Voices In Wartime, will be in attendance at Saturday night’s screening and will field a brief question and answer session following the film.

Voices In Wartime screens this Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in the MY Place theatre. Admission is free. Graphic war footage similar to what one might see on the evening news may make it unsuitable for very young children.

For more information or to submit your own poetry to the Voices In Wartime network go to www.voicesinwartime.org.

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