OK folks, wherever you are, get your calendar out and write down this under Saturday, May 10th: Pangea Day .
I just got the most recent progress report from the team organizing it, and it will be a remarkable event. You don't want to miss it. You don't want your family and friends and neighbors and colleagues to miss it.
It will be a first-of-its-kind: a global campfire, an event bringing the world together and celebrating our common humanity through film. Broadcast simultaneously and live in over 100 countries, available as a full-screen webstream everywhere there is a broadband Internet connection, and visible on cell phones.
Pangea Day will feature four hours of films and videos, live music, short inspiring speeches, and live audiences from satellite-connected locations in Cairo (the Pyramids), Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. If you will be in one of these cities, you can apply for free tickets; if not, you can make plans to attend any of the over 1300 other screenings -- in homes, movie theatres and larger venues -- that have already been listed on the Pangea Day site, a list that keeps growing. Or even better, you can host your own Pangea Day event for your friends: all you will need is a large TV screen, and the right channel access or a good Internet connection.
OK, if you've penciled the date in your calendar, let's now make a step back: what is this about? Pangea Day was born out of filmmaker Jehane Noujaim's speech at the TED conference in 2006. Two years earlier, Jehane had directed "Control Room", the controversial documentary following events at Al Jazeera at the beginning of the Irak war. "I don't know if a film can change the world", she said at TED, "but I believe it has the ability to take you across borders, into another world, and maybe that has the ability to transform" (watch her speech here, or read my blog summary). And if films cannot change the world, the people watching them certainly can. So she wished for "a day when the world comes together through film", called Pangea, from the time when all the continents were still together in one single landmass.
The idea has grown into a giant global project, with the support of TED; of TED patrons Shawn and Brooke Byers and countless other TEDsters; of personalities such as JJ Abrams ("Lost") and Forest Whitaker ("The Last King Of Scotland"), Judy McGrath (CEO of MTV), architect Richard Rogers and singer Paul Simon, among many others that joined the incredible advisory board; of more personalities such as Queen Noor of Jordan and CNN star reporter Christiane Amanpour (both will talk), Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil and Iranian rock phenomenon Hypernova (both will sing live); of main sponsor Nokia and of partners MSN, Akamai, AvenueA/Razorfish and others; of dozens of broadcasters (including CurrentTV in the US, StarTV all over China/India/Asia, MGM Networks in Latin America, Sky in the UK, Canal+/Planete in France, several in the Middle East, in Indonesia, in Mexico and many more -- covering over 100 countries); and of thousands of people around the world who have signed up to host a screening, to promote Pangea, or have submitted their own videos for consideration.
Because -- and here we come to what will happen during the four hours -- part of the content of Pangea Day has been produced by people like you and me, over 2500 of them from over 100 countries, who have uploaded their videos to the Pangea site. 20+ have been selected to be shown during the broadcast, ranging in length from 2 to 15 minutes. They are, by turns, funny, touching, dramatic and inspiring, and they all tell powerful stories, often without using words, of what it is to be human.
There will also be videos produced by professionals. Plus, the day will feature a dozen powerful three-minutes inspiring talks by planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, lebanese soidier Assaad Chaftari, anthropologist Donald Brown, actor Khaled Aboul Naga, African entrepreneur June Arunga, and others, including Queen Noor and Amanpour.
Yes, I know some among you are already shaking their head: ah, another warm and idealistic peace fest. But -- aside from the fact that, well, when exactly did idealism become a bad thing? -- here is why I believe Pangea Day will be worth your time and effort: because the world needs, urgently needs, a big infusion of "us", a spark that can start a truly global conversation, a growing sense that there is something we all share, and it's the only thing that matters: our humanity.
I'm not -- none of us in the TED and Pangea teams is -- under the illusion that Pangea Day will start an outbreak of global peace. But telling stories through film -- a universal language that often doesn't need words to pass on a message -- is especially powerful. Moreover, during Pangea Day you won't just be watching videos (and hearing speakers and listening to great music): you will also be watching the world watching, seeing how the other audiences at the other end of the planet will act and react. As TED curator Chris Anderson wrote recently in an e-mail, "Some use the language of promoting global citizenship, or reducing cross-cultural suspicion, or expanding our circle of empathy, or eliminating the "us/them" mode of thinking. These goals are all linked, and any progress towards them is a big deal".
The event -- "hosted" in English but realized in seven languages -- will take place 11am-3pm on the US West Coast, 2-6pm on the US East Coast, 7-11pm in the UK, 8pm-midnight in Europe and much of Africa, 9pm-1am in the Mideast, 11:30pm-3am in India, etc.
Now, if I still haven't convinced you that Pangea Day will be worth your time, maybe some of this will. This is the Pangea trailer:
The next one is a viral Pangea short video that debuted at TED this year, an invitation to see things differently, to consider also the other's point of view, based on the images of the famous scene of the unarmed young man carrying shopping bags who stood in front of the tanks on Tienanmen Square, on 5 June 1989, blocking them. The young man has remained anonymous. So did the soldier driving the tank:
The second, Kenya singing for India:
There are also the US singing for Mexico, Australia singing for Lebanon, Japan singing for Turkey, UK singing for Argentina. There is plenty more: a Facebook group, communities on MySpace and Ovi, t-shirts and stickers, information on how to host a screening and how to watch online. On May 10, the YouTube homepage will be turned into a PangeaDay hub. And just to give you a sense of who else will be watching and experiencing Pangea with you around the world, here a few lines from the most recent status report I got from the fabulous Pangea team, led by Delia Cohen: hosts in Bogotà, Colombia, expect 25'000 people in an outdoor plaza; Pangea Day will be featured on opening night of the Stuttgart Night Lectures in Germany; The Buffalo International Film Festival will host Pangea Day in the historic Riviera Theatre there; There will be a gathering on an "open grass field" in Woodstock, NY (yes, that Woodstock); Tawandang German Brewery in Bangkok will host a screening for 500; Teachers and students in San Salvador, El Salvador, will gather to watch. Ah, and Karin in San Francisco will be hosting an event on her rooftop terrace and serving Pangea cakes. Karin who? Well, you will need to find out by yourselves.
Nor will Pangea end with the end of the broadcast: it will be followed by community-building activities around the world, local events, more videos and films, open online forums, a Pangea documentary, and more.
Where will I be on May 10? I will be acting as the TED "ambassador" at the London event. So if you plan to be there, do come up and say hello.