STAND’s film series increases genocide awareness

Seton Hill University’s (SHU) rapidly growing STAND chapter moved students to tears again after holding their second event in Reeves Theatre on March 2 and 3. STAND chose to show “Blood Diamond,” a film set during the 1999 Sierra Leone Civil War.

By Aja Hannah

A&E Editor

Seton Hill University’s (SHU) rapidly growing STAND chapter moved students to tears again after holding their second event in Reeves Theatre on March 2 and 3. STAND chose to show “Blood Diamond,” a film set during the 1999 Sierra Leone Civil War.

Many were enslaved during the war to work in the diamond fields. Children taken from their villages were trained as soldiers and turned against their own people. Despite the cruelty behind harvesting these diamonds, powerful cities such as London still purchased them. In 2000, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was finally enacted in an attempt to curb the trade of conflict diamonds.

The movie relates this tale through Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a villager whose family was torn from him and is forced to work in the diamond camps. He finds a rare diamond and escapes the camp in search of his family. Along the way, he meets Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), an ex-mercenary who promises to help him find his family in exchange for the diamond.

After the film, SHU STAND President Mariah Rettenmeier addressed the group of almost 40 about the failing Kimberley Process. According to STAND, Zimbabwe is not following through with the certification process and is selling more conflict diamonds, weakening the agreement.

A concerned student asked how a consumer would know if a diamond has been certified. “You can ask the jeweler questions,” said Rettenmeier. “If they [the diamonds] are conflict free, they should be able to be traced. Asking questions is important. It’s what you can do as a consumer to show that you are aware of the problem and you do not support [conflict] diamonds.”

STAND also passed out a form that stated: “I recently learned of the current situation in Zimbabwe in regards to the conflict diamonds. While I greatly appreciate the work of the Kimberley Process and the Kimberley Process Diamond Certification Scheme you have put into action, I feel that allowing Zimbabwe to continue to export diamonds when they have not met the standards set by the Kimberley Process is a grave mistake. I do not wish to see your hard work become a matter that is taken lightly by the countries that participate in the Certification Scheme. I request that you set boundaries that will encourage Zimbabwe to follow the qualifications they have agreed to, and do so immediately.”

Students were encouraged to sign it as it will be sent to the U.N.
On February 9 and 10, the group showed their first movie on the Rwandan Geonocide of 1994. “Hotel Rwanda” is a film based on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), who opened his doors to more than a thousand refugees.

After witnessing his friends and neighbors killed by Hutu extremists outside his home, Rusesabagina and his family take shelter in the hotel that he manages. As three months pass and a million people are killed in Rwanda, orphans and other refugees find their way to Rusesabagina’s hotel.

Paul Clinton, a reporter for CNN, wrote, “The film defines how, using cunning and courage, a person can change the course of history — and stand up to the inhumanity in our midst.”

However, Clinton wonders if the critically acclaimed movie will move Americans to take action or “will they simply turn their backs — just like the world community did back in 1994 when these events actually occurred?”

Rettenmeier asked the same thing to the students who came to the first film. “It really gets to me when Paul talks to the reporter,” she said. Rettenmeier is speaking of a scene in which Rusesabagina is elated that an American journalist has shot footage of the devastation because maybe help will come then. The journalist replies, “If people see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, that’s terrible,’ and they’ll go on eating their dinners.”

A freshman at SHU, Rettenmeier wonders if it is enough to “just see the movie” and acknowledged that it was “hard to discuss and hard to watch, especially two nights in a row.”

Aisha Sabur attended the second night’s viewing and said that showing the film does raise awareness although she didn’t like how America reacted to the situation.

According to Rettenmeier, the group put on these movies so that it can hit home with students. “Movies put you as close to the situation as people in PA are going to get. Rwanda has already happened, but Darfur is still going on. People feel at a loss of what to do because we’re so distanced and it’s easy to detach from it. We want to enable people to speak up and take a stand.”

Rettenmeier said the group plans to put on more movies this semester including “Schindler’s List” on April 6 at Reeves Theatre.
“Movies are our biggest plan because we’re still becoming active again as a club,” said Rettenmeier.

STAND recently grew by 14 names on the email list and 19 students in club attendance. She expressed hope that the increased recruitment will bring more opportunities for events like letter campaigning to even a benefit concert.

Rettenmeier also said that because of the small number of events, they cannot yet join with the national organization. However, this allows them to expand their position from genocide-oriented to also incorporating human rights violations.

STAND is the student-led division of Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net). According to the STAND website, they changed their name from “S.T.A.N.D.: Students Taking Action Now Darfur” to “STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network,” in order to “reflect STAND’s broadened focus on multiple conflicts and new partnership with GI-Net.”

In May 2006, the two groups merged because of their “shared vision of creating a permanent anti-genocide constituency among both students and communities.”
“College is where we learn how we want to live our lives,” said Rettenmeier, drawing from her recent experiences. “We want students to learn about these situations also.”