By Antonia Roupell Few could have shed light on conflict resolution and analysis better than director of the Middle East programme at Oxford Research Group, Gabrielle Rifkind, and Giandomenico Picco, who served as under-secretary general of the United Nations and led the task force negotiations to end the Iran–Iraq War. They are the co-authors of The Fog of Peace: The Human Face of Conflict Resolution, the subject under discussion at the Frontline Club on Tuesday 4 March. In different ways they painted an insightful and personal picture of the changing face of peace negotiations. In a talk chaired by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, who steered the evenings discussions from Angela Merkel to Yasser Arafat and from Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to Gertrude Bell.
L-R Jon Snow, Gabrielle Rifkind and Giandomenico Picco
The changing face of war reporting for female journalists was the topic of conversation at the Frontline Club on Tuesday 11 February, with a special insight into two women who pioneered the trade – Clare Hollingworth and Gerda Taro.
Discussing the first female war correspondents. L-R: Kate Brooks, Deborah Haynes, Jane Rogoyska and Patrick Garrett.
On Monday 10 February, the Frontline Club hosted a BBC Storyville Preview screening of Coach Zoran and His African Tigers, an at once inspiring and saddening tale of the exploits and frustrations of the national football team of the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan.
The film tells the story of Zoran Djordjevic, the Serbian who in June 2012 took on the challenge of becoming the coach of a team that a year after it won independence on 9 July 2011 was yet to play its first international.
Within a few weeks, this had changed, and on 10 July, South Sudan hosted its first international friendly, a 2-2 draw with Uganda.
Coach Zoran congratulates the scorer of South Sudan’s first ever goal in international football. Photo Richard Nield
On Friday 7 February, the Frontline Club was fully booked and the audience buzzed with anticipation for the screening of A World Not Ours followed by a Q&A with director Mahdi Fleifel, editor Michael Aaglund and a last-minute addition of producer Patrick Campbell. The film is set in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh in Lebanon, where director Fleifel spent most of his childhood summer holidays since his family moved to Denmark. It is edited down from over 100 hours of footage, both from home videos shot by his father and from different filming trips he made.
“I didn’t really know where this was going. I was just filming and filming and filming, with this some sort of idea that one day I’ll make something,” said Fleifel.
Fleifel originally planned to make a fictional film based in Ain el-Helweh, but the logistics of working there with a crew made him hesitate. As more and more footage came to light from years of filming family and friends, Fleifel and Aaglund realised that there was a bigger and much more personal story to tell about life in the camp:
“There was a necessity to it you know,” said Fleifel. “And I did feel that it was important in a way, because here was something that was such a big part of my life that I had never been able to share with anyone.” Read more →
“We used to say health to the people. Now we say health to the rich only.”
On Monday 3 February 2014, the Frontline Club screened the UK premier of Putin’s Olympic Dream. Director Hans Pool shone light onto the crooked nature of Putin’s very own “fake smile.” Behind the facade of the Sochi Olympics is a world where the elderly are uprooted to make way for ice rinks and where 50–70% of migrant workers are deported without pay after months of exploitation.
On Friday 31 January, the audience was taken on a cinematic journey of insights from Tibet, Japan, Romania, Afghanistan and the UAE during an evening of Shorts at the Frontline Club. The selection showed five very different but equally compelling short documentaries. This time the films provoked thoughts on the consequences of tourism on ancient traditions, the dedication of individuals who take on a community’s responsibility and the forming of different memories that, combined, create our history.
On Wednesday 29 January 2014, Al Jazeera held a press conference to call for the release of five journalists who have been arrested and detained by Egyptian authorities.
Al Jazeera correspondent and Frontline Club member, Peter Greste; Cairo bureau chief, Mohammed Fahmy; and producer, Baher Mohamed were arrested on 29 December at their hotel in Cairo. Journalist Abdullah al-Shami and cameraman Mohammad Badr were arrested in July and August.
Other news organisations, including the BBC, Sky and The Daily Telegraph joined them to call for the immediate release of all journalists held in Egypt.
On 28 January at the Frontline Club, a panel chaired by CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer discussed the possible start of a new chapter for Iran following the election of Hassan Rouhani as president. Rouhani is not only in favour with the Supreme Leader and political hardliners but also backed by reformists, due to his running mandate “moderation and wisdom”.
Elizabeth Palmer, Shashank Joshi and Kelly Golnoush Niknejad discuss change in Iran
On Monday 27 January a large audience gathered at the Frontline Club for a screening of Mark Cousins’ contemplative essay-film Here Be Dragons, followed by a Q&A with the director, via Skype, and with producer Don Boyd, founder of HiBROW.
“That four thousand word report from the Syrian refugee camp…will not be read as much as ‘10 cats that have got thoughts about Syria’,” New Statesman‘s Deputy Editor Helen Lewis said in her opening statement on the second panel of the Grapevine event at the Frontline Club on Thursday 23 January.
Read highlights of the first panel discussion here.