George Washington University Hatchet

(October 21, 2004)

Common Ground Film Festival at the Elliott School

by Jason Mogavero

The Elliott School [of International Affairs] will host the 2004 Common Ground Film Festival, providing a venue for the free discussion of films designed to motivate, instigate, inspire or just make people think. Sponsored by the group Search For Common Ground, the Festival’s purpose (according to its website) is “to showcase films that focus on individuals who are working to make a difference in their community, show inspiring stories of reconciliation between former enemies, promote understanding of the issues and people involved, and give audiences a broader context of those issues.”

The Festival seeks not only to present the films but also to generate interactivity. “Our goal is not just to show films, but to show films about certain subjects and then interact with the audience afterwards,” said Susan Koscis, communications director of Search For Common Ground. “We use films to catalyze reactions about the material.”

2004 marks the second year that the Festival has taken place at the Elliott School. In 2002, it was held at the now-defunct Visions Cinema, a joint effort between Visions and American University the previous year. Koscis described the impact of Search For Common Ground’s films internationally. “We brought the Festival to Jerusalem this past June for four days and four nights. The audiences were comprised of conservative and liberal Jews and Palestinians. The conversations were emotional and very raw, but every day 100 people had to be turned away. They genuinely wanted to have these dialogues with the other side. It was very moving.”

Screenings take place at 7:00 PM in Room 213 at the Elliott School.

Thursday, Oct. 21 

“Improbable Pairs”

In his 17-minute film, writer/director/producer Paul Andrews depicts groups of people whose desire for peace and harmony outweighs their subscription to historical differences.

“Crucible Of War”

From the codified viewpoint of America, it’s easy to forget that once a military conflict halfway around the world is over, all does not simply return to normal. This film examines the aftershocks of war in the former Yugoslavia and the uncertainties about the future faced there. Producer and GW alumna Erica Ginsberg and director Leon Gerskovic will be special guests at the event.

Tuesday, Oct. 26

“In Rwanda We Say… The Family That Does Not Speak Dies”

After experiencing genocide, the Rwandan people faced wounds that under any other circumstances would seem insurmountable. This film examines the healing process undertaken to begin life again. Co-producer and director Anne Aghion will be in attendance.

Wednesday, Oct. 27

“The Junction”

They shared nothing in common while alive, but David Biri and Fahmi Abou Ammouneh came together as the first Israeli soldier and Palestinian resident killed in a conflict that has since claimed the lives of 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians. Their stories are told through home video footage and interviews with family and friends.

Thursday, Oct. 28


This feature-length documentary examines 10 teenagers (or ‘seeds’) that come together from their battered, conflict-riddled nations to the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine. Over three weeks, they embraced their differences and transcended barriers, all before the eyes of the cameras. Co-director and producer Marj Safinia and Vice President of Seeds of Peace Bobbie Gottschalk will be in attendance.

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