LONG BEFORE today’s grim nexus of 9/11, jihad and Iraq, the United Nations voted in 1981 to set aside a single day of global ceasefire so the warring people of the world could celebrate peace, however fleeting.
Two decades later, in 2002, the idea of declaring a single International Peace Day began, to be celebrated in grassroots, local events all over the world. Savannah soon followed suit, holding its first annual Peace Festival last year in Telfair Square.
This year the local Peace Festival happens again in Telfair Square, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sept. 22. (The actual International Peace Day itself is Friday, Sept. 21, which will be marked in Johnson Square with an interfaith service at 11:45 a.m.)
In a new and ambitious twist, the local celebration kicks off with a solid week of movie screenings beginning this Monday.
“We sat down with a long list and tried to narrow it down to things that were varied but still within the framework of movies that dealt with the theme of peace,” says Kevin Ionne, one of the event organizers.
“We wanted to appeal to different types of people, so a couple are documentaries, a couple are dramas. We wanted to approach the idea of peace from different angles.”
The films include Paper Clips, Romero, and Ionne’s favorite, Joyeux Noel. “That’s a moving film, sort of tragic although it deals with a Christmas Eve in World War I when both sides played soccer and shared chocolate,” he says. “While the movie hints at what might be possible, it also gives an indication how people get caught in the consequences of war.”
Ionne says that a discussion session will happen after every film. “All the films are free and open to the public,” he says. “They start at 7 p.m. and then we’ll open things up for discussion afterward.”
The festival Sept. 22 will feature a number of tables from local churches and organizations, and entertainment by various local groups, including children’s dance groups, music from Asbury United Methodist Church, and Spitfire Poetry Group.
Ionne says though the politics of war is on everyone’s mind these days, the Savannah Peace Festival makes a conscious effort to stay away from that.
“We want to stress that the focus of the Festival is not antiwar, it’s pro-peace. There won’t be any overt antiwar demonstrations — we’ve made a conscious effort not to do that,” he says.
Besides raising awareness, the Peace Festival is a good opportunity for local residents who feel alienated by the region’s innate pro-war sentiment to not feel so alone.
“A lot of people feel isolated, especially in a city like Savannah which is more conservative,” Ionne says. “This is a chance to come out and meet other people that feel same way you do.”
All events are free and open to the public.
Mon., Sept. 17 -- Paper Clips screening, 7 p.m. at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, 1008 E. Henry St.
Wed., Sept. 19 -- Peace One Day screening, 7 p.m. at Unity of Savannah, 2320 Sunset Blvd.
Thurs., Sept. 20 -- Romero screening, 7 p.m. at Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
Fri., Sept. 21 -- Interfaith service, 11:45 a.m. in Johnson Square; Joyeux Noel screening, 7 p.m. at The Ark Theatre, 703 D Louisville Rd.
Sat., Sept. 22 -- Savannah Peace Festival, 11-3, Telfair Square
Additional funding provided by the City of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Weave-A-Dream and the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations from the National Endowment for the Arts.