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Connecting across a big world: Uniting cultures through entertainment

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How would you define diversity? It seems like a simple question, and I’m sure dictionary.com will provide a straightforward answer if you looked it up. But can one sentence or two really describe the vast diversity in the world today? How do we wrap our heads around the idea of multiple cultures? Considering the huge realm of cultural experience, understanding diversity becomes a daunting task.

However, it is not something worth ignoring. In our busy lives it can be hard to see the world from a perspective other than our own. Often we find ourselves interested in other cultures and wanting to know about them, but not always having the time or resources to do so. Then, all of a sudden, we see something like the disaster in Haiti and everything looks different. Our eyes open up to what is out there in the rest of the world, and we see ways in which we can interact and be helpful. Our response to needs around the world, when we are made aware of them, is outstanding. Being aware of diversity, even in the most unhappy times, can bring about positive things.

This weekend, Colorado State University is hosting the first annual Uhuru Film Festival, offering a chance to peer into different cultures and hopefully become engaged with them. This festival embodies diversity in all forms. Breaking traditional boundaries of film festival genre, the UFF presents a variety of art including documentary, fictional narratives, and shorts. Music and books are also being promoted, demonstrating that cultural expression is created through multiple mediums. And though the UFF features African artists, do not expect a one-sided view of the African experience. A political activist couple returning from exile, a taxicab driver, an American seeking her heritage, and an Elvis impersonator are just a few of the characters that will be followed in the course of these films. In every way, the UFF shows us the diversity of human experience. Displaying them all in one weekend offers us a powerful way of learning about others and their lives.

I have always found film to be a powerful medium for both entertainment and education. The ability of a director to tell a story, so that the experience of the characters becomes so completely clear and relevant, has always inspired me in some way. But these stories are so real, and are so telling of a cultural experience, they really speak for themselves. Like a big news story from around the world, these tales reach out and ask us to open our eyes to the experience of another.

To kick things off for the UFF, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o will be reading from his latest novel Wizard of the Crow at the Reader’s Cove Bookstore this Thursday. It is a great opportunity to meet a world renowned author and hear a touching tale of cultural experience.

 Described as a “global epic from Africa,” this novel deals with the rise of globalization, and how we are all living in a world that is getting bigger and bigger. Thiong’o understands that globalization potentially causes divisions in different cultures, a result of many factors including the simple fact of population growth. At the same time, however, technology has made it possible to reach across the globe in seconds, allowing us to be a part of other cultures quite easily. This gives us a chance to be involved in the lives of others.

“We are all connected,” Thiong’o said, “we are each other’s keeper no matter where we are or come from.”

The many events presented by the UFF will certainly show us a new and powerful way of looking at other cultures. Once we learn about different experiences, we can see the many ways in which we can participate in dialogue, involve ourselves in aid, and ultimately make our vast and diverse world seem a little smaller.

Details on the Uhuru Film Festival:
When: Friday, February 5-Sunday, February 7, 10:00am-9:00pm (film times vary)
Where: Lory Student Center, Colorado State University
Cost:
Safari yote (entire event):$35.00 General public $25.00 Students
Siku moja (one day):$13.00 General Public $8.00 Students
Moja Pass (single film):$5.00 General public $3.00 Students
Full Schedule of Films can be found here at http://www.uhurufilms.org/index.html

Details on the Ngugi wa Thiong’o reading

When: Thursday, February 4, 6:30pm
Where: Reader’s Cove Bookstore, 1001 E. Harmony Rd.
Cost: Free
Books are now available at the bookstore. Purchase before copies run out and get your book signed after the book reading.