Storytelling must not be peripheral to social movements – it must be at the center of revolutions. Cara Mertes, director at Just Films, begun the session by delving into the art of fiction. Quoting non-fiction author, Peter Matthiessen, who ironically said “(non-fiction is) captive to facts or predetermined forms- it cannot fly,” Cara elucidated how non-fiction can sometimes leave its audience feeling powerless, acting as a disincentive to civic engagement. Fiction, on the contrary, allows us to be embedded in someone else’s reality. Research shows fiction readers are inclined to believe the world is more just than it really is. As someone who spent majority of her childhood in a library devouring novels and grew up to be an irrepressible optimist, this deeply resonated with me! The session introduced us to two revolutionary fiction films, Difret and Under the Same Sun. Both epitomize why there is such great power in the art of storytelling. Movements are built around emotional connections and the immersive experience of fiction film is the perfect medium.

Difret has a double-entendre. In its widest use, the word means courage. But in Amharic, it also means “the act of being raped.” The film showcases the story of 14 year Hirut Assefa’s act of defiance against the dominant narrative. Difret is not a tale of tragedy, but one of hope. Difret does not seek to demonize Ethiopian men, but to change the social norms around cultural violence by telling a story that does not judge or dismiss. I believe it will act as catalyst for change, making these men think, question and reflect rather than view this as a critique. Difret in my opinion is nothing short of a work of art and I hope it is embraced and celebrated across the world.

Under the Same Sun is a movie based “sometime in the near future.” Producer John Marks gave us the pleasure of a candid discussion about his journey to create a movie of how an unexpected alliance develops between an Israeli and a Palestinian who “set out to make money and wind up making peace.” Old antagonisms, new technologies and two hopeful entrepreneurs live ‘under the same sun.’ In my opinion, by putting hope on the screen Under the Same Sun will help overcome the current cynicism by illustrating how ordinary people can create huge waves of disruption and truly enable shifting the paradigm.