CANNES, France—Two tribes, the Didinga and the Logir, on different sides of a vast patch of fertile vegetation, which they must share in order for their cattle to graze, but each tribe cattle-raids the other and tit-for-tat reprisals are bloody because nobody wants to really share.
This dispute over natural resources, which takes place in South Sudan, echoes many others before it throughout history, it’s a old problem, the fight for land. Nandege Magdalena Lokoro (featured image) is a young mother who’s a part of the Didinga tribe. Her country of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, making it the youngest nation in the world. With youth comes hope and aspirations, yet atrocious infighting at the national level, also, the result of the country’s leaders jockeying for position and mobilizing their respective followers, has led to many deaths, upward of 400 000, local tragedies reflecting state-wide discord.
In this documentary film produced by Forest Whitaker NGO Whitaker Peace Development Initiative (WPDI) about how to help leaders of different factions see eye to eye, a man and a woman stand out, they help foster community relations, him through coaching a soccer team in a refugee camp and her through organizing a town hall meeting between the two tribes. Sudan counts nearly twenty different tribes so this forum being organized is not just pragmatic, it’s also symbolic of the direction the country ought to go in as a whole.
Nandege, mentioned earlier, is a mild-mannered and elegant young woman who bravely organizes a summit between the two tribes, groups of men toting assault rifles and their leaders who harbor years of resentment. How she got here is a result of happenstance and a sense of commitment.
Nandege was pregnant in 2014 when mid-wives and nurses in South Sudan decided to go on strike after going months of working without getting paid. Staff from the World Health Organization came to her help, instead. Nandege would later join the WPDI where she received training in mediation and conflict management.
Gatjang is a referee in a refugee camp of Juba, the capital. Through coaching youth soccer he helps to foster a culture of peace among young men from opposite tribes. Gatjang is tall and walks measuredly. Although he has known tragedy (several relatives of his have died) he keeps it together.
As peacemakers Gatjang and Nandege strike me as both vulnerable and determined, efficient yet guarded. Besides the general facts of their circumstances, the film doesn’t get into their personal motivation or viewpoint, besides the shared need for peace in their communities. In fact, “Peace” doesn’t dig very deeply, the filmmakers opting, instead, to cover enough ground to render an eloquent documentary about the specific conflict between the Didinga and the Logir.
During this morning’s screening I thought about how cinema gives us a window unto the world, unto people. Their problems repeat themselves over the course of history, but individuals helping to fix things and bring people together stand out through their achievements, they get remembered. The particularly-compelling figure of Magdalena Nandege Lokoro made a lasting impression, after seeing “For the sake of peace” you’ll pin your hopes for a better humanity onto her. I know I did.
IN OTHER NEWS: Forest Whitaker will receive an Honorary Palme D’Or at tonight’s opening ceremony