Pangea Day features 24 films from around the world

Alexandra Finkel

About 20 Northwestern students in Norris’ McCormick Auditorium sat and laughed in sync with thousands of people across the world Saturday afternoon as part of the first annual Pangea Day. The students were being instructed by a film about the universality of laughter.

The four-hour event, sponsored by A&O Productions, featured “Laughter Club” and 23 other short films, as well as musical acts and live tapings of speakers that focused on various social issues. NU’s viewing of the event was just one of thousands of places where the broadcast took place, said Laura Galloway, a Pangea Day spokeswoman.

Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim won $100,000 at the 2006 Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference as one of three award recipients, and created Pangea Day, “a global event bringing the world together through film,” with her prize, according to the Pangea Day Web site. The featured films were selected in an international competition that included more than 2,500 submissions from about 100 countries.

A&O Director of Films Caroline Blitz said she first heard about the event from a friend and immediately registered online because she thought it would bring NU students together but also let them feel connected with the rest of the world.

“I feel like watching a film on campus is a different experience than watching it on your computer screen in your apartment,” the Weinberg senior said.

The 24 films tackled serious topics like child soldiers and genocide in Rwanda and lighter issues such as adolescent awkwardness.

Because Technology, Entertainment, Design is one of her favorite Web sites, Communication sophomore Rachel Kalt said she had been tracking Pangea Day for weeks and was excited when she found out the event would be at NU.

Although many of the films were inspiring, Kalt questioned the use of the celebrity speakers, such as actress Cameron Diaz and from the Black Eyed Peas.

“It seemed a little trendy and kind of like an awards show,” she said. “But I guess the whole concept of social issues being publicized by celebrities taps into an audience of people that might not normally like this type of thing.”

Weinberg sophomore Sharanya Jaidev said she came to the event curious about what it was and ended up staying almost the whole four hours.

“I think college students sometimes forget that we are part of a much bigger world,” Jaidev said. “Films like these are a really easy way for students to be made aware of different situations around the world.”

Blitz said she was happy with the turnout and had expected it to be smaller because it was its first year.

“Now that we know the nature of the event after actually having seen it, the film directors next year will be a lot better equipped and be able to pair it with activities and programming,” she said.

But one thing that stuck with Blitz was the segment on laughter.

“There are a few basic things that we all have in common like laughing, crying and smiling,” she said. “And when you look at those few things, you see that we are really not all that different.”

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