Peace it Together (formerly known as the "Creative Peace Network") formed in January 2004 as more than 50 Arab, Muslim, Jewish and other Canadian volunteers gathered in Vancouver to plan the first “Peace it Together” summer program. The three-week camp incorporated arts, team-building and dialogue exercises, outdoor adventures and creative exploration to enable Palestinian, Israeli and local teenagers to befriend each other, learn new communication and listening skills, challenge their previously held stereotypes, and develop compassion for their “enemy.”
While that first program was a great success, there were a few key areas to improve. Knowing the power of creativity to transform conflict, we wanted to focus our next program on a strong creative and collaborative process. We also envisioned a program that would result in a tangible product that participants could share widely and use to empower others in their communities.
Filmmaking to Transform Conflict
In the year following our first program we connected with the Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS), a filmmaking “boot camp” on the West Coast of British Columbia that has a highly developed model to teach groups of people how to make a film in a week. In the summer of 2006 we invited ten Israelis, ten Palestinians and nine Canadian teenagers to GIFTS to first engage in intense facilitated dialogue before dividing into small groups to create short films about the conflict.
As a medium, filmmaking is intensely collaborative and creative and its product easily and broadly sharable. Filmmaking requires participants to work together from story development through to final editing. The process forces so called "enemies" to intertwine their stories into short films that present fresh and real perspectives on the conflict that have proven to be of great interest to young people in the conflict region and around the world. The 2006 program proved to be very successful and served as the model for future programs.
Recognition and awards
Since the 2006 program, our organization has been awarded the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Harmony Award and the B.C. Human Rights Coalition/United Nations Association of Vancouver’s Renate Shearer Memorial Award. We have received a great deal of media coverage including an article in the New York Times, an 11-minute news piece on CBC’s Sunday Report, an article in Reader’s Digest to name just a few. Additionally we received a significant grant from Stephen Spielberg’s “Righteous Person’s Foundation” to support our 2008 program.
To date the films have been featured in more than twenty film festivals around the world and have won the “Most Promising Youth Filmmaker” and the “Ron Kovic Peacemaker” awards.