By Daniel A. Shyti

In the same place where companies like Microsoft and Nokia reap their mineral wealth, you will find the same Uranium used for the atomic bombs dropped in World War II.  You will find that pessimism runs deep where a million members of an ethnic group are systematically hunted and killed.  But where life is never guaranteed, people make art to survive.

“Cultures of Resistance,” is an independent film focusing on members of victimized populations around the globe.  Brought to GMU’s Johnson Center Cinema courtesy of the Middle East Studies Program, “Cultures of Resistance,” (directed by Iara Lee)  contains footage compiled since 2003 on five continents.

The documentary offered a rare opportunity to attach a face and a name with people living in tragedy – from genocide in Rwanda to industrial exploitation in the Congo.  More specifically, there was a focus on the valiance of the human spirit manifested in the form of artistic expression, which somehow manages to thrive in even the most devastated regions of the world.  The film stresses the powerful role art can play in galvanizing a revolution.

Though non-violent protest is not a new concept, it is rare to have such an unobstructed view into the lives of the peaceful protestors as offered in “Cultures of Resistance.”  The film truly accomplishes its goal of removing the viewer from their own, narrow, cultural scope by launching them straight into the everyday chaos of afflicted societies.

There is usually minimal background information provided about the nation under scrutiny and the plethora of cultures are blurred together with little transition.  Rather than obscure the message of the documentary, however, this actually enhances it.  You are forced to see these people not as citizens of a foreign land, but as human beings with whom you can relate to on an emotional level.  You feel bombarded by images of mutilated ex-child soldiers and landmine victims, and yet you also see people making poetry, music and graffiti to cope with and overcome adversity.

“Cultures of Resistance” has an altruistic message that encourages cultivation of the mind and soul in spite of in spite of conflict in the political sphere.  Most of us have seen the recent explosion of the KONY 2012 campaign, which is now entangled in controversy, but “Cultures of Resistance” offers something that cannot be ignored – a sense of value for human life.