Building Bridges: Cross Cultural Journeys
by Robbie Leppzer
color, 66 min, 1985/1994/2007
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In this compilation DVD, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker Robbie Leppzer chronicles people working to build cross-cultural bridges. In Central America, young athletes and harvest volunteers from the United States engage in citizen diplomacy, while in Senegal, an African-American storyteller rediscovers her African roots.
Harvest of Peace (color, 29 min, 1985) - watch a preview
U.S. volunteers travel to a war zone in Nicaragua during the height of the U.S.-backed Contra war and Sandinista revolution in the mid-1980s to harvest cotton in a unique citizen-to-citizen peace effort.
The film offers glimpses into the lives of campesinos who speak passionately about how they have been affected by the Sandinista revolution and their hopes for change in their country. The North American volunteers express their concerns about the role of the U.S. government in the war and their heartfelt desire to build bridges of friendship and peace with Nicaraguans.
Scenes of daily life — women making tortillas, washing clothes by hand, picking cotton, children playing — contrast with the harsh realities of the ongoing war. Villagers sort through the charred remnants of a house after a Contra attack, while the U.S. volunteers dig bomb shelters. In lighter moments, the North Americans and Nicaraguans play baseball, dance, and relax together at the beach.
Futbolito: A Journey Through Central America (color, 28 min, 1994) - watch a preview
A video chronicle of five North American athletes who traveled through Guatemala and Nicaragua waging peace with a popular new foot game known as footbag, or "Hacky Sack."
The documentary follows a troupe of footbag players from their training camp in rural New England through a two-month journey across Central America. Traveling from village to village, members of the troupe play footbag in town squares, meeting Central Americans of all ages. The video shows the excitement and joy generated by this game, nicknamed el futbolito, or "little soccer ball" in Spanish, by its new Central American enthusiasts.
Futbolito celebrates the unique power of people-to-people diplomacy, through the sharing of a cooperative game, to overcome cultural stereotypes and political barriers. The video illustrates the universal language of play as a medium for initiating friendship, as the North Americans encounter soldiers, war widows, athletes, and children. This documentary also offers a unique glimpse into the harsh realities of Central American life, while affirming the indomitable spirit that prevails even in the midst of hardship and war.
Irma's Journey (color, 9 min, 2007) - watch a preview
A chronicle of a unique spiritual and cultural pilgrimage to Senegal, West Africa by African-American storyteller, Irma Gardner-Hammond who, along with her 17-year-old son, Earl, make an emotional re-connection with their African roots.
“Futbolito presents a compelling portrait of cross-cultural communication. The idea that games can serve as a bridge between cultures has immediate appeal to young people. The film was inspirational for my beginning Spanish students. It contributed to their development of a sense of the ultimate purpose of language learning. I highly recommend Futbolito for use in middle school and high school classrooms.” — Beth Rubin, social studies and Spanish teacher, Serramonte High School, Daly City, CA
“[Harvest of Peace] A striking evocation of Nicaragua's struggle and a moving expression of America's best response.” — Andrew Kopkind, The Nation
“[Harvest of Peace] Not only a powerful political statement, but an artistic work.” — Wes Blixt, Union-News
This DVD is a part of Turning Tide: The Robbie Leppzer Collection
Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
World Premiere, Telluride Film Festival, 1985 (Harvest of Peace)
Best Nonfiction Film, San Antonio Cine Festival, 1985 (Harvest of Peace)
Curator's Choice, New England Film Festival, 1985 (Harvest of Peace)
International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Cuba, 1986 (Harvest of Peace)
Vermont International Film Festival, 1986 (Harvest of Peace)
Nationally Broadcast on Free Speech TV (Harvest of Peace, Futbolito, Irma's Journey)
Nationally Broadcast on Black Entertainment Television (Irma's Journey)
Turning Tide Productions
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