Peace One Day

Peace One Day


Reviewed by: David Stanners

Wouldn't it be great if, for just one day, nations lay down their weapons and let peace triumph? This was Jeremy Gilley's vision, a young Brit, sick of the universal obsession with violence, death and destruction.

Starting in 1998, he sets out on a quest to create world peace for a day, something far more difficult than he had anticipated. "If I fail, it'll make an interesting film about a world unwilling to change," he says. "And if I succeed... well, that's almost inconceivable."

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He organises a press conference, following promising talks with UN ambassadors, and invites 1500 people. A hundred friends show up and no press coverage. Down, but not out, he realises this will be a long arduous journey and, before proceeding any further, decides to clue himself up as how best to travel to danger zones, where genocide and death are endemic.

Upon entry into Somalia, he talks to locals, many barely teenage, about their lives, families - often killed in front of them - and personal opinions. Although selective, their answers are so nonchalant that one would have to conclude that death is an accepted and expected part of their culture. When he proposes a day of peace, some are positive, others sceptical, believing it would change nothing, with people still starving, regardless of such a gesture.

We follow Gilley through a maelstrom of activities, endless meetings and ceaseless canvassing of UN officials. Everyone supports the idea in theory, but finding a practical proposition proves a toughie. He meets a Costa Rican lawyer, the original exponent of the peace day, hoping to secure backing from his government that appears to stammer and stutter before eventually supporting it. With a great deal of hustling, he bullies his way into the UN headquarters on a number of occasions, before finally meeting the Secretary General, Cofi Annan.

He visits the Olympics in Sydney, pushing his point home with mixed results. The action builds to a climax on September 11, 2001, when Gilley is in New York. Using the terrorist atrocity to his advantage, he visits every Noble Peace Laureate he can get his hands on, including the Dalai Lama and Shimon Perez, but fatally not Yasser Arafat, which proves an obstacle when presenting a documentary on world violence to the Arab League. Gilley's intention is to plead for intercultural co-operation between Jews and Palestinians, but with only the Israeli point of view on show, the Arab delegates dismiss it as biased, setting him back to the drawing board.

Peace One Day is an undulating account of one man's spirit and determination to make an impossibly idealistic vision a concrete reality. The editing bolsters his ego and often he talks more than he listens. Despite never securing a definite ceasefire, his achievement results in an annual fixed calendar date for Peace on 21 September and an estimated 240 million people being made aware of it.

Against the odds, this is an inspiring testament.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2004
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One man goes on a global pilgrimage in search of world peace for a day.
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Director: Jeremy Gilley

Writer: Jeremy Gilley

Starring: Jeremy Gilley, Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama, Mary Robinson, Shimon Peres, Amre Moussa

Year: 2004

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2004

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