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Saudi Women Campaigning for Right to Drive

Manal al-Sharif's video of her driving a car in Saudi Arabia in 2011.

RIYADH – Among other restrictions in Saudi Arabia, women are still denied the right to drive a car, a task only seen suitable for men. Now, a movement among Saudi women is gathering momentum through a day of action meant to challenge the ban: social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been used to encourage women behind the wheel on Saturday.

This time the Saudi media has also been supportive of the effort with op-eds calling for a frank discussion on the issue and ending the restrictions on women driving. In 2011 an activist woman Manal al-Sharif posted a YouTube video  where she was driving and urging others to do so, but this resulted in her being imprisoned for over a week.

On a political level the female members of the advisory council appointed by King Abdullah have also recommended for the ban to be removed, but there has been no debate on that yet. In contrast, many clerics and religious scholars have taken part in protests this week, talking of the threat of "westernization" and the "conspiracy of women driving". Could lifting the ban on women's right to drive then be a turning point for human rights in Saudi Arabia?

We invite you to watch the following trailers on the topic of Saudi Arabia:
  • INSIDE THE SAUDI KINGDOM by Lionel Mill is the first film shot by a Western observational documentary crew  inside Saudi Arabia for over 26 years. Through unique access to one of the most senior Royal Princes in the Kingdom this film paints a portrait of modern Saudi Arabia at a crossroads.
  • MANAL AL-SHARIF's video of her driving a car in Saudi Arabia.

Shall We Watch Decapitations in Media and Film?

A still picture from a decapitation video that was taken off from Facebook earlier this year.

MENLO PARK – This week there has been controversy about what may be shown to the public, whether showing decapitating human beings is acceptable in social or traditional media? The social network Facebook that has some 1 billion daily users has recently resumed allowing its users to post decapitation videos on the website after a policy change. This move seems dubious in the light of Facebook still not allowing any nudity on the service; what does this, then, tell aboutwhat we accept as normal in our world and what we consider harmful?

Violence in the media, film and entertainment has been a controversial matter for decades. There is no question that violence has an effect on the viewers. First-person shooter games – allowing one to take the position of a soldier or a gunman with the goal of killing people – were originally developed by the US army in order to lower the propensity to kill in combat situations. Such games are hugely popular and have been blamed for the increase in civilian massacres such as school shootings and the overall desensitization towards violent behavior.

From 1930 to 1968 a Motion Picture Production Code governed the moral censorship guidelines of films produced in the US.  It included recommendations on how to represent violent scenes in films with restraint. After the ban was lifted many great classics were produced like "Bonnie & Clyde", which utilize violence in an artistic way, even though not to such an extreme extent like directors do nowadays, as for example Quentin Tarantino. The discussion erupted after Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange was released, when the violent depictions were claimed to have inspired cases of manslaughter and murder, which led Kubrick to withdraw the film from British distribution. However, Kubrick stated that "To try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life seems to me to put the case the wrong way around. Art consists of reshaping life, but it does not create life, nor cause life."

Cinema for Peace's own research on this issue can be summarized very roughly in the recommendation to avoid first person shooter games and extreme violence in film – unless it is a form of art.

We invite you to watch the following trailers:
  • TOUGH GUISE: VIOLENCE, MEDIA & THE CRISIS IN MASCULINITY by Sut Jhally systematically examines the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.
  • THE TRUTH ABOUT VIOLENCE by  Michael Portillo investigates the science behind violence in this BBC documentary. We think of ourselves as calm, peaceful, law-abiding creatures. But could we ever be driven to kill another person?
  • MORAL KOMBAT by Spencer Halpin studies the controversial, polarizing subject of the video game controversy through a series of interviews with experts on both sides of the matter – some believing that violent games should be banned, others supporting their protection under the First Amendment.
  • BONNIE AND CLYDE by Arthur Penn is a somewhat romanticized account of the career of the notoriously violent bank robbing couple and their gang.
  • A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Stanley Kubrick. In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem... but not all goes to plan.

Cinema for Peace Honorary Board Member Sir Christopher Honored by Johnny Depp

LONDON –  Our honorary board member Sir Christopher Lee has received the highest accolade at the 57th BFI London Film Festival as Johnny Depp handed him the British Film Institute Fellowship award. Cinema for Peace congratulates him on this honor.

One of the most grossing actors of all time, Sir Christopher Lee, who at 91 years shoots several movies a year, is well known for works like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory alongside Johnny Depp – but those are just a few of the Guinness record amount of over 300 films that he has acted in. He has worked with the most esteemed actors and directors, including Billy Wilder, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and George Lucas. He was the man with the Golden Gun in James Bond, The Pope, the greatest Dracula of all time and had sword fights with opponents such as Errol Flynn and  Master Yoda. He was knighted by the Queen in 2009 for his  services to drama and charity.

Sir Christopher Lee is a long-time Cinema for Peace supporter. He traveled with Cinema for Peace to support UNICEF projects and handed out prestigious awards at the annual gala, including one for Angelina Jolie for her film about the horrors of war in Bosnia (where Lee fought the Nazis some 70 years ago and met Tito), as well as lighting the World Peace Flame. He has also served as a Cinema for Peace honorary board member.

We invite you to watch the following trailers of films with Sir Christopher Lee:
  • JINNAH by Jamil Dehlavi is the story of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
  • HUGO by Martin Scorsese. Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.
  • THE WICKER MAN by Robin Hardy. A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.
  • THE LORD OF THE RINGS by Peter Jackson. A meek hobbit of The Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring and the dark lord Sauron.
  • THE HOBBIT by Peter Jackson. A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
  • CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Tim Burton. A young boy wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world's most unusual candy maker.