Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NW Film Festival

Song Bird Theater, one of the local KNIFVES members, held a film festival this weekend as a fundraiser for our local women's shelter. I ended up going for the whole day on Saturday. It was really good, and interesting. Most of the films were short, and a lot of them were by other KNIFVES members. It was the first time that I had spent a whole day watching KNIFVES-related films.

The winning film was a documentary called "Rivers in the Desert," by Jody Lee, on the physical moving of an historic Jewish temple in Boise from one location to another. Jody also gave a talk on film making. She's got some great stuff - commercials, annual reviews, etc. - but the documentary was the shining star. While the starting point was the moving of the temple, the documentary itself was about the Jewish religion in Idaho, the swastikas that periodically get painted on temple doors, and the groundswell of support that the rest of the community offers when those horrible acts occur. Powerful.

In addition to the films, there was a young man named Travis Thompson, with a display for his nonprofit organization TACTIC. Great website - http://culturaltactics.org/index.html. Travis is from Sandpoint, Idaho, and has a passion for helping people in need. His passion has led him to found TACTIC, which stands for Targeting Advocacy to Conserve Traditional Indigenous Cultures. His organization's goal is to help, not convert. The group has two main programs right now. One is to find housing for Tibetan nuns who have no homes because the Chinese have barred them from the convents for being "unchaste" because they have been raped. Travis and his group are trying to provide housing for them while they wait for a permanent location to be built. The other TACTIC project is to set up a Big Brothers-like program for young refugee Tibetans through a soccer program at a refugee camp in India. The idea, as I understood it, is to give young adults a sense of direction and responsibility to a youngster, or a group of them, which helps the young adults shake off that sense of despair and lack of purpose that they feel in their temporary-permanent lives at the refugee camp. Ultimately, Travis expects TACTIC to expand into Africa, with its primary work there.

Travis was pretty impressive - and humble, so it took me a day of talking with him off and on to figure out just how impressive. But I asked a lot of questions, and learned that a starting point for him was when he got into a battle with Idaho's governor Bruce Otter over divestment in companies doing business in Sudan, as a protest against the genocide in Darfur. The battle went public, and a local Idaho paper asked its readers what they thought. Over 80 percent wanted divestiture. Otter still refused. Here's a short article outlining the exchange. And while Travis continued to work nationally for a while, at some point he wanted to get more hands-on. So he formed his own nonprofit. TACTIC.

The thing that floored me - Travis spoke about the young Tibetans he was sponsoring so that they could get their lives on track and act as mentors in his big brother program. He used the word "sponsor" a couple of times. I looked at him. He couldn't be more than 25 (he's 22). How are you sponsoring them? I asked. With what funds? "With my own money," he said. Still not making sense - how does this guy have any money? So I asked where his money came from. (A trust fund, was all I could imagine.) "I sold everything I own," he said. Guitars, amps, his car....

Wow. He really means to do what he's doing. So I gave a donation. And when he was telling the festival attendees about his project, I thought, they need to know that piece of information. So when he was done (not before! - no Kanye West deal here), I went up and took the microphone and told that story, about how he's sold everything to fund this project. And people came up to him after, so that he was the most popular guy at the end of the night. Maybe something will spark, and his nonprofit will get more funds. He definitely needs to branch out beyond his own pocket to have impact. But like I said to the crowd, here's someone who's worth the investment. He's proven his grit. Let's give him our support.

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