Coffee With Danny Glover at SFF

[wzslider]By: Medina Malagić

Today’s guest for the ‘Coffee with…’ program of the 19th Sarajevo Film Festival was Danny Glover. He has an extensive career as an actor who also starred in many big-budget hollywood production. However, Glover took the opportunity today to focus on the community building work and other humanitarian projects that he has been involved in since his college days and how his life experiences beginning from childhood paved the way for his involvement in this area.

”I realized as a child through my parents that there was something else happening that was much larger than our ordinary lives. My mother came of age in the deep south, an area that witnessed important transformation. I was born in San Francisco and my parents were thrust in a particular moment by virtue of their work with the US Postal Service. They became members of a union. The governemnt desegrated the work force in 1947, and employees of the US Postal Service were primarily African-Americans. So, with that and the Civil Rights Movement this was all a part of the daily message in my life as a young child”.

Thus, all his life Glover was exposed to and involved in trying to help shape the changing poltical landscape. Early on, he became acquainted with various forms of leadership within movement building, and he was surrounded by various counter culture movements at the time, such as the Beat Generation and being a youth during the 1960’s in the US. In the progressive college he attended, he went on strike with his fellow students to support various global issues.

Even when he began acting, Glover did not envision at the time that acting would become an integral part of his life. ”I came to acting not thinking that it would turn into a real career”, he said. He used acting as a vital way to remain connected to and continue to help influence and shape political and social issues and consciousness-raising through his activism.

He cites writer Frantz Fanon, author of ”Wretched of the Earth” as one of his main sources of inspiration. Glover read the book soon after it was published, and as a student he had studied this work in order to garner a greater understanding of colonialism and its influence on how we see ourselves and how it helped to shape ideas.

”There was something about Fanon’s work where I felt that he wrote for me. I became versed in the issues around the apartheid system, and from the music and art that came out of that. I used him as a platform. You learn the craft of acting and understanding the extraordinary power of great writing. He provided me with that as an artist and gave me the opportunity to say what was important in the world. I said to him in 1982 that without him, I would not be an actor. I had to find a way to add value to what I was doing”.

Glover remarked that Sarajevo has a special kind of energy that he has not experienced at other well known international film festivals.

”As I learn more about this festival, I am amazed about the birth of this festival, since it started in the midst of a conflict here. This is an integral part of the foundation of the festival. When I drive around here, whether with UNICEF or members of the festival, I was shown traces of the war. These were things that I had seen on television, such as snipers and people running for cover. All these events are still fresh in their minds and they are still trying to solve a number of contradictions. The festival is a way to heal, to connect people and to honor and respect one another. There is a different kind of energy here, one that I do not find when I attend a film festival in Toronto or Cannes. It is the edge that came out of this source of healing for this nation and its people”.

In addition to the plethora of activism that he has been involved in and is continuing, Glover became a UN Goodwill Ambassador for UNDP since 1997. He spent time doing work for UNDP thanks to his training as an economist and in development. Nine years ago, he became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Yesterday, he took part in a dodge ball game in Sarajevo with children as part of the ”It’s About Ability” Campaign intended to promote inclusion for children afflicted with disabilities. Glover said that it reminded him of the ways that we deal with children, especially in conflict. It is about finding ways to get them to regain trust and form friendships again, and one way to do this is through sports. ”The process of healing is an important one here”.

He said that he remembers seeing the UN building for the first time when he was 12 years old, and since then he has wanted to do something for them. ”The UN was a pathway for me to understand how people came together”.

Glover is also leading a workshop today at the Sarajevo Talent Campus, and tomorrow night in the National Theatre he will deliver the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation Scholarship to a young filmmaker.

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