In spite of gains women have made as evidenced by the three female recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, we still have work to do and films like "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" and "Peace Unveiled" move the conversation forward. Film is a powerful medium and can tell stories of social change with a kind of depth a news broadcast doesn't have the ability to do. I asked Gini about the cynicism and attitude that "nothing changes" that I've seen espoused by some Americans.
[This strikes me as] ... a very luxurious position ... if you live some place and you're raising a family, and have no way of going to any place else. You can't really say nothing can change. You can't put your head down and die. And I think that people don't [do that]. It was that exact thing that really prompted people, like the women in Liberia. It wasn't that after fourteen years of this horrible civil war that they had decided that it was hopeless and they could do nothing. It was exactly the opposite. They became fed up. Leymah said after a certain point, you don't even feel fear anymore. That you feel fear for so long and after a while you don't feel it and then you just try do something.
The other part of this discussion is how to help and get involved. In "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," we learn how Leymah and the women she worked with came up with their plan. Gini talked about this process and how people carry on:
I think people thought that they had the whole plan in day one, but they didn't. They were just everyday figuring out, "Okay. Now, what do we do today?" That to me is interesting because it means that we can do the same thing. I think sometimes one feels that you must know exactly what you're going to do next, and if you don't, then you can't do anything. Whereas I think there was a day that they decided to start and from there they figured out what to do and they just kept going. Even at the times when Leymah felt like [they] couldn't figure out what to do next, but somehow they did it.
In telling the story of "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," there were some specific challenges. There wasn't much footage of the events that centered on the women. So Gini and her team had to search and almost every frame of film that they found made it into the film. Here's more on that process:
It was incredible because we found that piece of footage when they were in the church announcing what they were going to do, and the footage was on the end of a VHS tape. It was the very last seconds and the tape was kind of distorted -- I mean that footage, it's in such bad condition. Or the tape of the woman when they confronted Taylor. We couldn't find that anywhere. Johanna Hamilton, she was the co-producer on this. She was amazing. Johanna was already five or six months pregnant when we were shooting in Liberia. She couldn't take any anti-malaria drugs. She was kind of trapped a lot of times, not being able to go out and shoot with us. And she found this guy who was Taylor's videographer and Johanna tracked him down. Sure enough, he had footage and she went over to his house and there were piles of stuff that they brought to the hotel and she was looking, looking, looking through tapes and we found the tape with the women. And so it was actually from Taylor's own people that we got that footage. It was just amazing. And really, a great kudos goes to Johanna for doing that. I mean she did an extraordinary job.
We also talked about Leymah's reaction to the film. Leymah had said in a recent talk that she didn't realize the full significance of what they had accomplished for Liberia until she saw the film. Gini shared with me how it felt screening the film in Liberia:
That was really an interesting thing. It wasn't actually just Leymah. It was true of all the women. he night that we first showed "Pray" in Liberia, there was this kind of collective gasp from all the women, "Oh, my God! We did that." I do think there's something about being on the screen that gives validity to people. It's kind of like if you've seen it on TV then it must be true, then it really happened. The electricity in the room that first time that we showed this in Liberia was incredible and that was great. That was really great.
"Pray the Devil Back to Hell" will air on Tuesday, October 18th on PBS as part of "Women, War & Peace". "Peace Unveiled" shows on October 25th. For more details on the series, click here to visit the website with the full schedule and lots of extras.