These short essays to follow are written from the standpoint of trying to distinguish between violent behaviors for a means of survival, and violent behaviors that stem from an appetite to commit violent acts. After approximately 5000 years of civilization, humans have erected themselves out of the natural world and have constructed their own. The civilization system, so to speak, depended on infinite amount of resources, of all forms, to fuel the process. Resources that from our early ancestors perspective, were only there for the taking. At that time the population was significantly smaller, which meant the impact on the environment could be absorbed without recourse. Throughout time our mythology even reflected this perspective by placing the Earth at the center of the universe. As a result, the civilization system was highly successful in growth, and accepted violent acts as common place.
Acts of violence have built and will continue to build this world in the form of one species consuming the energy of another for its own survival. The modern world follows the same way. However, through civilization humans must question what is necessary for survival if they intend on surviving. Our modern society has packaged resources in cute little boxes made from almost any material. But for most, the thoughts on the origins of these materials, the true necessity of the items, and the impact on the environment are never questioned. Simply put, I believe the majority of the population has lost connection with the impact of how much violence we tolerate.
My hopes are to extract a truth that I can hold up to my self and decide are my acts just. It is important from my perspective that this kind of questioning begin to tingle in the cortex’s of the public’s consciousness. The human race has been very successful at taking control over a large amount of the planet. We have put a man on the moon, dabbled in the nuclear forces of the atom and now we can build a human with digital implants. Our power is only strengthened by our technology which has taken us now to the brink of a new age of human beings.
My thoughts lead me to conclude the following: if humans are to survive the coming times an awareness of the interconnectedness of life and matter must increase in the majority of the world population. Each one of us is made from living and non-living matter. Before you were you, your atoms were somewhere else, being something else. We are made from the Earth, as much as we are the Earth.
Man is not the center of the universe. Not only are we analogous to a proton in the vastness of the universe, but contemporary cosmology suggests (allowable through Quantum Mechanics) that the universe itself may be one of many. The point here is that a shift in perspective is in great need. We are part of something so immense and delicate, as opposed to something being just for us. With a perspective of ownership towards the world comes unregulated consumption, and with todays population size this translates into huge violence across the globe. In order for humans to survive in the future, their place in the universe must be clear.
Of course this will change many beliefs. Think of this: how can 2000 – 5000 years of ancient beliefs handle modern moral dilemmas such as stem cell research, cloning, human organ printing, gene manipulation, and the other issues that will surely arise as a result of twenty first century technology? I feel that the further we probe the more we will realize all creatures and even matter are at different levels of consciousness. Our actions are a result of our beliefs, which are a function of our perspective. The species is too powerful to run an old program at this scale of population. The violence is too great for the planet to absorb anymore. More importantly, for what purpose is this conscious engine intending to do and for whom? How many entities must be sacrificed for survival or for the sake of a tiny minority? What does the planet gain in dividends for being on the receiving end of such violent acts? Lastly, how does violent behavior affect our humanity, are we evolving or are we dis-evolving?
This leads me to the first basic question, when is it just to kill and when is it not?
More to come….
Written by Erik Niel
The weather is cold but the spirits are hot. Slamdance 2012 is pumping like a well oiled machine. As a first timer here, I must admit its a wonderful experience to be part of a huge gathering of artists alike. Ten years ago when I made the choice to become a filmmake my goal was to see a project of mine on the big screen. In about 24 hours this dream with be coming true. My only hope is that it will be received well by the audience.
Either way my filmmaking spirit has been reenergized after a a long bout of financial illness and weakening confidence. It goes to show that things can flip on a dime and the world will give back. Honestly I am still not sure what to make of it all especially as a first timer to an event of this size. I must still remind myself that I am not here as a tourist but as a contributor to the festival. Hopefully all goes well at our screening tomorrow.
I again thank all of our supporters of the film, ‘We Win or We Die’ and of course all our supporters over the years. At 180 films we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Reporting from Park City, Utah
With all the struggles occurring in the world, this short film tells not only the story of one man, and a people. But also relays the resonating frequency of revolt throughout the globe, as they fight for the primal right of freedom, property, and the pursuit of happiness. ‘We Win or We Die’ strikes a cord that applies to me and all people I believe. The title does not just apply to Libyan people alone, it is a beacon of strength for all people to rally behind for a new age. In this writer’s humble opinion, this film is the film of the year, created by young lads with spit and hope. Go now and see this powerful film and witness the power of a collective force.
December 7, 2011, the creative crew of ‘We Win or We Die’ attended a kick off diner for the 2012 Slamdance film festival. Over Cuban food in Los Angeles Versailles restaurant, the crew enjoyed meeting other filmmakers, critics, and distributers as everyone toasted in the new festival for 2012.
For Matt Millan and Erik Niel this was the beginning of a new step in their 10 year career as filmmakers. Both men agree emphatically that none of their recent success would have ever transpired without the talent of animator Evan Sexton, the quality insights provided by Adrian Belic and Amir Masud, and of course Chris Testa and Harold Millan’s incredible knowledge and guidance to the project as producers.
Matt and Erik wish a warm thank you to all the supporters of the film who believed independent film making is a worthy endeavor. Without people like you Independent artists could not exist.
The crew gears up for Slamdance cometition taking place in Park City Uath in late January 2012. Morale is high and the crew is very excited to have been selected for such a big festival. To all 180 Films supporters and fans over the years we again say, “thank you very much for your support we could not have gotten this far without you.”
Be on the look out for updates as the festival approaches, from all of us at 180 Films, Happy Holidays.
By: Don Smith (smithpolitical)
It has been a hectic past few days. We are attempting to arrange the largest music festival in Libya’s history, Rebirth: 17th February Music Festival, in only a few months. We are also showing the film “We Win or We Die” all across Benghazi. I’d like to say many thanks to Tawfik and the International School that he runs for allowing us to show the film there. The overall response to the film, “We Win or We Die”, and the festival, Rebirth: 17th February Music Festival, has been positive. Most people have commented that he film reminds them of the revolutionary spirit that that had just a few months ago and the festival is an excellent way to celebrate Benghazi’s independence.
This brings me to Thursday October 20th. The air is electric with the news of the fall of Sirte and Gaddafi’s demise. The end of 42 years of tyranny has released a tidal wave of emotion. With crowds of people bombarding the streets yesterday, firing off pistols and assault rifles, it was like New Years Eve and the 4thof July rolled into one. With shouts of “Long live Libya” and “Long live America” filled the air as I was continually approached and thanked for the role the US had in the liberating of this country. I have yet to come across any anti-American sentiment since I came here and many Libyan want Americans to feel that Libya is their second home.
The people are ecstatic and the air is filled with hope as Libyans once again own their country and can control its future. However, there is also a deep awareness of the long road ahead of them. Libya as a nation is quite wealthy, but Gaddafi squandered that wealth leaving most of the nation in ruins. Construction has been in frozen for the past ten years leaving half-built buildings sitting in a state of suspended animation and many of the nation’s historical landmarks in complete disrepair. There is trash everywhere because waste management was cancelled once the war began and the water system needs to be revamped so the people can once again have clean drinking water. Very few police are on the streets and government offices have yet to reopen, but the streets are peaceful and these services should resume shortly.
The sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq has made many Libyans resolute to not let their country slide into a civil war. And while there is always some risk of conflict based on ideology, this is fortunately unlikely in Libya for a variety of reasons. Tribalism, while still present in the country, does not contribute to any longstanding conflict within Libyan society, having held much of the country together in the absence of government, and is no more significant than any other form of regionalism in any other country. Religious extremism exits only within a minority of the population and secularism is favored by the majority of Libyans over the establishment of a religious caliphate. This is not to say that Libyans wish to abandon Sharia law, in fact many would argue that it should be the basis of the legal system, but that the laws should be flexible and open to interpretation to allow the government to expand with the people. Another fear is that political opportunism will lead to fracturing of Libyan society because conflict can always be manufactured by those who wish to exploit it for their advantage. Issues can be created and then used to divide a once unified electorate. Already there are those in the West that question the validity of a government created in the East. Nor should any favoritism be used in the division of the country’s assets. Regionalism is important and Libya can easily exist within a federated system that complements this regionalism. One can only hope that the Libyan leadership will put partisanship aside and do what is best for the country.
Many dramatic events will enfold over the next few months as the nation shifts towards democracy and factions form into political parties. Libya’s first free elections will usher in a new era for the country. That and the drafting of a new Libyan constitution are sure to ensure years of peace and prosperity to come. Now is a time for excitement, and rebirth, for while many years of hard work are ahead the Libyan people know that Libya’s future is its own once again, the era of tyranny is over, and a new Libya sees the dawn.
Yesterday started like any other day in Benghazi. The rumor mill was turning at pace. Sirte was on the verge of falling. The NTC was about to declare an end to hostilities. For days and days, however, we had heard the same, so most of us didn’t expect October 20th to unfold the way it did.
The morning was spent trying to arrange screenings of my film to various English-speaking schools in town. While at the European School, my friend Dado received a call from another friend. Halas. Sirte, the last bastion of Gaddafi, had fallen. Once again, I was a bit skeptical, because I had heard the same before. I went to speak to the Headmaster and didn’t think any more of it.
After the interview, Dado and I headed to the Libya Alhurra tv station to collect footage for the music festival. Something definitely was amiss. Horns honking and Kalashnikov fire at a greater frequency. And even the distant boom of gelatina. Hmm. Perhaps.
We pulled into the station, and joined a crowd gathered by a tv. Sirte has fallen, and some big names have been captured. Yet what of Gaddafi? We waited. Nothing. An interminable period of time passed…and then the cheers erupted. Local news claimed Gaddafi was captured, but once again I was skeptical. After all, Motassim was “captured” 10 days ago. And Saif was “detained” after the fall of Tripoli.
But then the pictures filtered through. Images of what appeared to be a lifeless Gaddafi. And soon Al Jazeera confirmed that it was indeed true. After 42 years of iron fisted rule, the self-styled god king was dead. A man who hovered over his people ominously, even within their dreams, reduced to pleading for his life in a sewage pipe. From whence he came, as some would argue.
We rushed out of the station and headed straight for the courthouse, Dado blasting Dire Straits the whole way. The road was packed. Horns honking. People chanting. Guns firing. There was a palpable energy in the air, one that I had not felt since I was here in April and May. The courthouse area was beginning to fill with people…and the noise was deafening. Walking through the crowd, it was easy to be swept away in the euphoria. For even though the war had been winding down over the last couple of months, the death toll in Sirte was rising steadily, and the specter of Gaddafi still hovered over their lives. Yet now it was over. The head separated from the shaven body.
We spent rest of the afternoon at the courthouse interviewing people, and enjoying the jubilant scenes before taking a siesta. When we returned in the evening, the downtown was absolutely packed. Gridlock everywhere, but nobody cared. We walked by a car accident, but those involved were too excited to pay much notice. Benghazinos and Benghazinas were out in full force, and enjoying a night that they will remember for the rest of their lives. VL Day.
As I walked through the downtown area, I wondered what it would be like in six months. Would the vacuum left by Gaddafi lead to a mass scramble for power? Would one tyrant be replaced by another? Or would Libya become a beacon of light to the rest of the world? Many questions are left unanswered. Yet I can still hear the faint voices of the wives and mothers of the Abu Salim victims on that fateful night in February. “Wake up, Benghazi. Wake up, Benghazi.” On this day, the 20th of October, 2011, I can assure you that Benghazi, and the whole of Libya, has its eyes wide open.
A young man named Ahmed returns to Libya after studying economics in the United States. But he’s not here to start a new life in the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Instead, he waits patiently in his hometown of Benghazi. And when the orders come from his contact, he is prepared to move quickly.
Hiwaz was probably somewhere in Tunisia at this point. Through many Libyan nodes, Hiwaz, a remnant of the old military guard before Gaddafi, had recruited them in the States and in Europe. He ushered them to Morocco where they trained for months…unseen, unheard. Slowly, the man began filtering through the Libyan border, and taking positions within the populace. Now they wait…
Weeks pass. His contact is silent, and the abyss of the unknown stretches out in front of him. Until one day Ahmed finally gets word…but too late. Hiwaz is dead, his plans lay in ruins. And the roundup begins. He is unsurprised when they finally show up at his door. He is trussed up and sent off to Tripoli, to the dreaded Abu Salim Prison where he is processed. He waits in the corridor, standing and handcuffed with a bowl of some unidentifiable substance posing as food poised at his feet. He is starving, but he will not eat like a dog.
Days pass, and the guards find him slumped on the floor, bowl untouched. Processing complete, they move him to a cell, where he is soon joined by 14 other doomed souls. News starts to filter in about what happened. Hiwaz and his co-conspirators, attempting to infiltrate through the Tunisian border, were killed in a firefight against the vigilant Gaddafi apparatus. The leader of the Great Socialist People’s Jamahiriya is invincible.
But news of what really happened begins to filter through. As a young man named Zakaria is arrested for the sole crime of sharing the uncommon name with one of the conspirators, another man is ushered into Abu Salim. Word travels from cell to cell in a wave of information. He was with Hiwaz, they whisper.
Weeks sail by, and Ahmed loses precious weight. Deciding that he will observe the month of Ramadan indefinitely, he saves his food for the setting of the sun. The cell network filters in more news. Hiwaz and his cohorts made it through the border. There was a gunfight near Bani Walid. Some were killed. Some were captured.
Next to hapless Zakaria’s cell in an adjacent block, a man who was with Hiwaz is shepherded out of his cell one day, and never seen again. The guards soon tell Ahmed that he and others were hanged publicly back in Benghazi, a serious lesson that the Gaddafi apparatus is well-oiled, and poised for retribution. Suspecting all along that he would be hanged for his part in the conspiracy, Ahmed waits. But they never come.
As the distinguishing lines between the days melt away, the lines of hunger on Ahmed’s shattered body become more pronounced. He feels spears of madness probing his brain, but he resists. He repeats nursery rhymes he learned in the States over and over. When that fails to keep away the darkness, he remembers as many verses from the Qu’ran as he can, and repeats them deep into the stygian nights. They were stopped. They showed them their papers but were brought into the station anyway. Hiwaz was taken in alone to interview about his papers. He carried a gun.
To be continued…