The Myanmar-based Smile Education and Development Foundation is in the process of completing a major tour of the United States to show the documentary "Sittwe" and discuss communal challenges in Myanmar's Rakhine State.
The US tour included 18 events in over a dozen cities including New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Francisco, Berkeley, New Haven, Connecticut; Durham, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Chicago.
The Sittwe film, which tells the story of a Muslim youth and a Buddhist youth in Rakhine, was screened at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations with opening remarks by Kelley Currie, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council.
As Sittwe film maker Jeanne Hallacy said the film was selected for the Reel Action/Real Change two night gala in Los Angeles joined by documentary filmmakers Juan Carlos González Díaz, Director of Hasta la Raíz and Sophie Kruz Director Little Stones and hosted by the American Jewish World Service President Robert Bank.
A film showing and discussions were held at major universities including Columbia, George Washington, Johns Hopkins, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, City College of San Francisco, Yale, Harvard, Boston College and Duke.
"The most remarkable event we had was showing the film and discussing the universal issues it raises about racism, tolerance, segregation and education with youth," said Ms Hallacy told Mizzima.
"We showed the film to a group of 40 students at the Nueva High School in San Mateo. Following the film, the students wrote their ideas about tolerance, diversity, hate speech, racism, discrimination and peace," she said.
"We also spent a remarkable day of multiple screenings and discussions with youth of colour detained at Juvenile Hall, a short-term youth detention facility for the City and County of San Francisco. The youth were so taken by the themes of the film that resonated with their own experiences of racism in the United States and had an amazing discussion with Myo Win. The film affected them and their adult teachers so much -that they then spent the afternoon writing open letters to the Youth of Burma -sharing personal stories of how they've been affected by discriminatory views in society and offering words of solidarity and encouragement. It brought me to tears,” Ms Hallacy noted.
The final event will be held on November 26 at the Catholic Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago.