When the filmmaker Jehane Noujaim won the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED), her wish was to create one day where people across the world gathered at the same time to watch films produced by international filmmakers. Best known for her film Control Room), Noujaim believed the power of the films could help the audience see beyond our differences to the humanity that binds us together. Or, as the tag line declared, “4 hours. 24 films. A new way to see the world.”
Pangia Day, as it came to be called, took place on May 10th at 18:GMT, 11 am PDT, at official sites in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro. Sponsored by Nokia, Pangia Day included films produced with video cameras from mobile phones the company gave out to filmmakers around the world.
The overall films, which ran the gamut from heart wrenching to the lighthearted, were punctuated with shorts that had people across the globe describe their interpretation of a simple human emotion.
Love was demonstrated by a couple dancing in Uganda, a boy giving his mother a flower in Mozambique, a mother kissing her child in India and two girls arm in arm in Guatemala. The simple concept, which included ruminations on sorrow, fear and dance, was a rich and visual reminder that no matter our race, our country, our age or our class, we do all experience the same range of emotions, making it in some ways the most affecting part of the day.
Watching such a diverse group of people reacting to one set of emotions made me wonder what would happen if we tried a similar experiment in this country. But, instead of having it revolve around a shared emotion, what if we built it around a shared experience?
With the presidential election, just as the primary before it, sure to touch on all the fault lines of race, class, gender, generation and geography, perhaps that would be the perfect national event to build a national Pangia Day around.
In 2000, African American and older Jewish voters said their complaints were largely ignored when they said their votes were negated by faulty ballots and suspect screening at polling places across Florida. In 2004 there was a great deal of talk about the youth vote and some dismissive talk about the black vote. In the end, pundits said the youth vote disappointed and the black conservative vote surprised. All this, we heard through the filter of the mainstream media.
Just as we saw the surprising and the universal with Pangia Day, our own experiment with Election Day might astonish us with what we have in common and tickle us by illustrating our national eccentricities. Now that we have identified the national event to build Pangia Day around, we would also do well to take a page out of the original event and show the results on one day around the country.
Just as we need an event around which to build global understanding, so do we need to build national understanding. Let Pangia Day be a model.