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Arts & Culture

Global Peace Film Festival celebrates 10th anniversary

Festival director Nina Streich: "It's not exactly what you expect."

Photo: Dion Beebe, License: N/A

Dion Beebe

The Zen of Bennett screens 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, on Mills Lawn, Rollins College

Every year we've written about this annual film festival, which showcases thought-provoking international films that promote better understanding of cultural movements and struggles, we've taken a similar approach: We attempt to convince readers that, despite a didactic-sounding name, this festival is not a bore. We express surprise that we've found it, yet again, to be a collection of entertaining and intriguing films (mostly documentaries) that will engage viewers with their humanity, their sometimes cutting-edge realism, their value as artistic works and political statements.

But after 10 years, the Global Peace Film Festival's well-rounded programming should come as a surprise to no one. The festival has grown from a handful of films compiled on a shoestring budget into an organized annual effort staged by executive director Nina Streich, a board of directors and a small army of dedicated volunteers. Still, Streich says she likes it when people who attend the festival tell her it challenged their notions of what a festival promoting worldwide peace can encompass.

"I always love it when people have that reaction," she says. "Years ago, when Steve Schneider was [covering us] for the Orlando Weekly, his tagline for his coverage of the festival was something like, 'If you think you know what you're going to, you haven't been there.' I loved that."

This year's festival lineup is an eclectic mix of activist-oriented films (Street Paper, a film that follows the lives of a group of homeless people who put out a newspaper for their community), environmental documentaries (Planeat, about the impact animal-based diets have on human health and the planet) and films that might not seem to have much to do with promoting peace at all. Take, for example, the opening-night film, The Zen of Bennett, a first-person narrative documentary about the creative process of singer Tony Bennett, or the inclusion this year of

Party Crashers, a fairly straightforward film that delves into the development of the Tea Party.

We asked Streich to talk to us about the planning of this year's festival and the thought process behind including some of the less-obvious film selections.

Orlando Weekly: This year, Global Peace Film Festival's opening night feature film is about Tony Bennett – how does that fit into the film fest's global peace theme?

Nina Streich: Well, Tony Bennett is a pacifist, so it really is a good fit for the festival. … It was produced by his son, and it's sort of a good way to let people in on the human side of Tony Bennett. The screening is outdoors, so it's also a good film you can get engrossed in if you want to, but if you don't pay attention or wander off and then come back, you won't get lost.

It did seem like an unusual choice to open the festival, but then there are a lot of things in this festival that might seem unusual to people – lots of films in the program aren't specifically about "peace"; some make people have to stretch to think about how they fit.

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