Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions
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2009 Parliament


Stories are a medium through which we encounter the personal and communal power of religion and spirituality. Films provide a vivid way to tell those stories, and gain new perspectives and understanding.

The 2009 Parliament Program will include screenings of an outstanding array of films. We worked with Hartley Film Foundation and Auburn Media to develop a curated film series that includes the best of current documentaries on world religions and spirituality that are also related to the 2009 Parliament themes. Parliament attendees will be enriched, informed and delighted by these extraordinary films.

Premier Film Series winners include:

Healing the earth with care and concern

Renewal: Religious grassroots environmentalism
Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller

Across the United States, people of faith are standing up for the environment – from Evangelical Christians fighting mountaintop removal, to Muslims supporting sustainable farming, to Jews helping children experience the bond between nature and spirituality. This documentary portrays the growing movement of religious communities united in their efforts to protect the precious life on our planet.


Reconciling with the indigenous peoples

Dhakiyarr Vs the King
Tom Murray and Alan Collins

The family of the great Yolngu leader Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda is searching for answers. Seventy years after his controversial murder trial and subsequent disappearance, Dhakiyarr's body still has not been found. His descendants know that justice has not been served. They want to restore what was denied to him: his honor. This is their story, told in their own words - of two laws, two cultures and two families coming to terms with the past. Dhakiyarr vs the King is the story of the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land, Australia.

History of the Inupiat: Nipaa Ilitqusipta/The Voice of Our Spirit
Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson

The Voice of Our Spirit follows individuals, young and old, who struggle with the loss of language in their own personal way. "For a long time now I have been wondering why I don't speak my language," says Dora "Aluniq" Brower of Barrow, Alaska, in the film's opening minutes. “I would always hear it around me because my parents and my grandparents were speaking, but when it came to us children they would speak to us in English. It wasn't expected of me to speak back in Inupiaq." The film chronicles Inupiat history that spans 150 years, starting with the epidemics, followed by the missionaries and what happened to the Inupiat children with the establishment of a boarding school.


Securing food and water for all people

Migrar o Morir/Paying the Price: Migrant Workers in the Toxic Fields of Sinoloa
Alex Halkin

This film examines the lives of impoverished workers from Guerrero, Mexico, who migrate to Sinaloa to pick exotic Chinese vegetables for the export trade. It is a devastating portrait of hardship—from these migrants’ community of origin, largely abandoned by the local and state governments, to the inhumane and slave-like working conditions of the migrant camp.

Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow

Is water part of a “shared commons” - a human right for all people? Or is it a commodity to be bought, sold and traded in a global marketplace? Thirst tells the story of communities in Bolivia, India and the United States that are asking these fundamental questions.


Building peace in the pursuit of justice

Pray the Devil Back to Hell
Gini Reticker

Pray the Devil Back to Hell chronicles the remarkable story of the courageous Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to their shattered country. Thousands of women - ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim – came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace. Armed only with white t-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they took on the warlords and nonviolently forced a resolution during the stalled peace talks in their country.


Creating social cohesion in village and city

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai
Alan Dater and Lisa Merton

When rural Kenyan women lacked firewood and clean drinking water, Wangari Maathai suggested they plant trees. Discover how this simple act led to overthrowing a dictator and the Nobel Peace Prize.


Sharing wisdom in the search for inner peace

The Dhamma Brothers
Jenny Phillips, Anne Marie Stein, Andrew Kukura

The Dhamma Brothers is a moving story of transformation. Men held in an overcrowded maximum security prison in Bessemer, Alabama, are forever changed by a meditation program. The Dhamma Brothers has been described as a film where “East meets West in the Deep South,” an apt portrait of what happens to a number of hardened criminals who volunteer for a ten-day Vipassana retreat.

Praying with Lior
Ilana Trachtman

Praying with Lior challenges our beliefs about whom and how one speaks to God. The film follows Lior Liebling, a thirteen-year-old boy with Down Syndrome nicknamed "the little rebbe," for the four months that lead up to his Bar Mitzvah. The filmmaker brings to life a stirring story of how a community grapples with the particular gifts and handicaps of a special needs child, and how that child views meaning from his particular social location.


This film series was curated by Macky Alston- Executive Director of Auburn Media and filmmaker, Barbara Abrash - Director of Public Programs at the Center for Religion and Media, New York University, Faye Ginsburg - David B. Kriser Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Center for Religion and Media, New York University, Sarah Masters - Managing Director of Hartley Film Foundation, Cara Mertes – Director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Program , Alison van Dyk – Executive Director of The Temple of Understanding. Dean Wilson- Consultant to the Film Studies Program, Vietnam National University in Hanoi, and Angelo Zito - Co-Director of the Center for Religion and Media, New York University.


Click here for additional films to be screened at the 2009 Parliament