The Possible Future

By Bob Koehler

I sit here in a deep sort of writer’s block. Writer’s void. The black hole.

I want to write about restorative justice (and I refrain from capitalizing it just now because that deifies it and right now I can’t cope with something so big, so important; I have to bring it down to my size) … I want to write about restorative justice because I can’t think of anything bigger or better to do with my life than, well, save the world, or at least save my city, Chicago.

But I’m afraid. I won’t get it right. I won’t get all of it. Continue reading

Stop the Killing

By Robert C. Koehler

Maybe half a million dead, half a country — 10 million people — displaced from their homes, jettisoned onto the mercy of the world.

Welcome to war. Welcome to Syria.

This is a conflict apparently too complex to understand. The U.S. brokered a ceasefire with Russia, then proceeded to lead a bombing strike that killed 62 Syrian troops, injured another hundred — and gave tactical aid to ISIS. Later it apologized . . . uh, sort of.

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The Future Cries Out: ‘Water Is Life’

By Robert C. Koehler

The dogs growl, the pepper spray bites, the bulldozers tear up the soil.

Water is life!” they cry. “Water is life!”

This isn’t Flint, Michigan, but I feel the presence of its suffering in this cry of outrage at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. No more, no more. You will not poison our water or continue ravaging Planet Earth: mocking its sacredness, destroying its eco-diversity, reshaping and slowly killing it for profit.

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War vs. Democracy

By Robert C. Koehler

The paradox of democracy is that it depends on the integrity of those who have the most to lose if an election goes the wrong way — you know, the people in power.

That’s a particularly thorny dilemma when the “fourth estate” — the speakers of truth to power, the public’s counterforce against political hackdom — are basically corporate wimps who view their job as the voice of public relations for the status quo, the defenders of our conventional beliefs, e.g., that God’s in his heaven and America is the world’s oldest, greatest, most secure democracy.

But in 2016, even the mainstream media are trembling with uncertainty. As Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis recently wrote: “Now 16 years after the theft of the presidency in Florida 2000, and a dozen since it was done again in Ohio 2004, the corporate media is approaching consensus that it is indeed very easy to strip millions of legitimate citizens from the voting rolls, and then to hack electronic voting machines and computerized central tabulators to flip the official final outcome.”

I’m sure the party to thank for this late mainstream awareness that our computerized voting system is painfully vulnerable is Donald Trump, who has dragged the election process into territory more puerile, racist and reptile-brained than even the corporate media can tolerate.

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Reflections on the Anthropocene

By Robert C. Koehler

“However these debates will unfold, the Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined, so that the fate of one determines the fate of the other. Geologically, this is a remarkable episode in the history of this planet.”

This is a little too big to simply call “news.” Indeed, I can’t move beyond these words — especially that heart-stopper, “intertwined” — until I’m able to summon sufficient inner quiet and humility. Geologically, the paradigm has already shifted. How about spiritually?

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2014 Peace On Earth Film Festival Official Selections

The Peace On Earth Film Festival’s Review Committee was both challenged and elated to find that the quality and sheer volume of the 2014 POEFF Submissions caused us many hours of dialogue and contemplation until we were able to narrow the field down to 31 Official Selections out of 146 Submissions.

It is a highly remarkable and illuminating field, including subjects as diverse as: domestic violence, the fallout from the Fukashima nuclear disaster, compassionate hospice care for dying state prisoners, immigration, the treatment of children with mental illness, gun violence, agri-business and the environment, forgiveness following extreme acts of violence, and Arab – Israeli relations, just to name a few.

Our deepest gratitude to the filmmakers who make the festival possible through their courageous films. This festival is driven by a desire to give exhibition to filmmakers who make the difficult choice to create significant and daring films that, because of their subject matter, sometimes struggle to find distribution and a wide audience.

Please spread the word about the 2014 Peace On Earth Film Festival, being held on March 6 – 9 at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, a free venue.

This festival and its films provide an opportunity for you to venture into the world, and discover what is really going on beyond your own backyard.

A FIRST: DFP-IB Community Movie Night – Locke Elementary School

The Peace On Earth Film Festival’s Dialogue for Peace Outreach Program sends warmest thanks to Josephine Locke Elementary School, Principal, Mr. Ortega, Vice Principal, Ms. O’Brien, and International Baccalaureate (IB) Program Director, Mr. Parker, teachers and student staff members for a wonderful night of POEFF films and dialogue chong qi gong men.

Kudos especially to Mr. Parker, for his immeasurable efforts to draw an audience that reached close to 200 students, parents and community members! Featured films, Out of the Rubble (ongoing ravages of Haiti earthquake), Ronan’s Escape (bullying), and Kindness Thought Bubble (treating each other with kindness, humanity & respect), generated heartfelt, thoughtful and inspiring dialogue – especially from the Locke students and their friends.

In keeping with the night’s theme of community and service, Locke teachers and staff made popcorn to raise funds for Haiti, and Mr. Parker gave a talk and presentation of his stirring personal experiences of volunteering in Haiti, just months following the quake. The students’ expressed appreciation for their lives, for what they have been given, and took up the challenge to do what they can to help others, starting in their own backyard.

The audience tackled the very difficult and very real challenge of bullying and its aftermath, following Ronan’s Escape. Mr. Parker challenged the students to “be the change” in their own school, to confront and speak-up when witnessing bullying. He reminded everyone that we can be part of the change toward kindness, respect and humanity, starting in our own school, our own home and our own community.

Participants departed the evening with their own self-made “prescription” of less negative choices and more positive choices, based on the Jen Ratio in Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Kindness Thought Bubble.

The next Dialogue for Peace IB Community Movie Night will be in mid-December at Locke from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., stay tuned here for the date. The December program will focus on POEFF films that tackle environmental themes. We can’t wait!

The DFP – IB Community Movie Night is an amplification of the Dialogue for Peace Outreach program currently in its 2nd of 15-Lessons/15-Weeks curriculum magnifying the mission of the International Baccalaureate Programme at Josephine Locke Elementary School, working with 8th graders and teacher Mr Will Bermudez.

If you’d like know more about the DFP-IB Community Movie Nights or the Dialogue for Peace Outreach program, visit our web site.

Or contact us at or call 773.273.1598.

POEFF Announces 2013 Submissions & Highlights Work of IVAW

POEFF Announces 2013 Submissions

It is a pleasure to share with you that the Peace On Earth Film Festival (POEFF) begins accepting submissions for the 2013 festival beginning July 1 through October 31, 2012. The 2013 POEFF will be held from Thursday, March 7 through Sunday, March 10, 2013, in the historic Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater.

Interested filmmakers should refer to our Filmmakers Page or Homepage for Guidelines for Submissions.

If you haven’t done so, I invite you to take a look at the outstanding films that were 2012 Official Selections. This was a landmark festival for us. 2012 marked the first year of an expanded four day festival, which also included Jerome McDonnell (host of WBEZ’sWorldview) as MC of Opening Night, two Student Voices for Peace Showcases, Q & A’s with all attending filmmakers whose films were Official Selections; and our first foray into live streaming – following the short documentary, #whilewewatch (2012 Special Selection), Tim Pool, one of Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year – Media Messenger of Zuccotti Park, and featured in #whilewewatch, spoke and took questions from the audience in the theater and via the internet, while being live streamed around the world.

2012 also included a compelling eight member Peacemakers panel, which included professionals and activists in the areas of juvenile justice, gun violence, the Occupy Movement and Arab-Israeli relations. One of the featured Peacemakers was Vince Emanuele, a veteran of the Iraq War and featured in On the Bridge, (Winner, 2012 Best Feature Documentary).

Highlights Work of IVAW

Eloquent and inspiring on screen and in-person, Vince and his colleagues from the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) were a powerful and enlightening presence throughout the festival.

We do our best as a festival to stay in touch with filmmakers and peacemakers as they continue their tireless work to create change toward peace, tolerance, communication and compassion. That is why we are honored to be able to share with you some highlights of the work being done by the IVAW since the festival screening of On the Bridge.


Chicago veterans have been complaining for a long time about the quality of care at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Here are just some of the problems there:

  • Staff receives inadequate training in Military Sexual Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Traumatic Brain Injury. (They basically watch a webinar. That’s it.)
  • In-patient robe attire reveals too much of the body, making women veteran patients who have experienced past sexual violence feel exposed and vulnerable.
  • Many staff are not versed in the issues facing the current generation of veterans.

Teaming up with the Nurses’ Union

Through our organizing with various groups leading up to the NATO protests, we met representatives from National Nurses United (NNU). We learned that their members work at the VA, and they had concerns too. Safe staffing ratios at the VA were not being met, making the it an unsafe workplace for staff as well as for veteran patients. Together, we announced we would hold an informational picket outside the VA to let the public and patients know about our joint concerns. When the VA heard of our planned picket, they immediately asked for a meeting. They knew that veterans picketing in front of the VA would be bad publicity. Since then, we’ve had two meetings where they agreed to pursue considerable changes, based on joint recommendations of IVAW and NNU.

These changes include:

  • Increasing staffing levels for nurses.
  • Taking other services out of the women’s clinic, so that it is solely a  women’s space. (They’ve already done this.)
  • Hiring two new patient advocates to increase effective feedback of veteran patients.
  • Investigating into the unethical psychiatrist at the women’s clinic.
  • Ordering new robes for female vets (larger and less revealing).
  • Reviewing staff training and other policies to address our concerns.

The VA Director also agreed to meet with representatives of IVAW and NNU on a monthly basis until these issues are resolved. We have to keep the pressure on him to make sure he implements all the changes agreed to on paper. Our work at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago started off as a trial run of taking our Operation Recovery campaign from active duty military bases to the VA medical system. We’ve had great results so far, and now we have a model to use in other cities around the country.

We look forward to a 2013 festival filled once again with courageous and compelling films that serve to change the world – one film, one movement, one purpose – one heart at a time.

Peace, Milissa Pacelli

POEFF in Partnership with Free Spirit Media

The Directors of the Peace On Earth Film Festival and the Board of Directors of Transcendence Global Media, NFP, are proud to announce a partnership with Chicago’s own Free Spirit Media, for the 2012 Peace On Earth Film Festival and Dialogue for Peace Outreach Program. Free Spirit Media partners with schools and organizations to provide education, access, and opportunity in media production to underserved urban youth…

For the first phase of the partnership, the POEFF chose the fearless and provocative FSM film, Sounds of Freedom, for the 2012 Dialogue for Peace (DFP) Outreach Program in schools. In Sounds of Freedom, students from FSM at North Lawndale College Prep, take the audience on a journey from deep in Chicago’s inner city to the Arab Spring in Egypt, delving into what freedom means to different people. In January 2012, POEFF Directors will pilot curriculum specifically designed to Sounds of Freedom in a Chicago Public School.

We believe that films on the themes of freedom, social justice, nonviolence and tolerance, created by high school students, can have an immeasurable impact on their peers. FSM’s peer-to-peer approach to filmmaking addresses some of the toughest topics, while exploring nonviolent and peaceful alternatives.

The POEFF is proud to partner with FSM in order to highlight their outstanding work with underserved urban youth, and to support our mutual use of the medium of film to teach, to enlighten, and to speak out, and most importantly, to serve the greater good.

Stay tuned for the POEFF’s announcement of the second phase of our partnership with Free Spirit Media in 2012!

A Different Kind of Hero to Our Youth

Most young people have nothing to do with the violence that bleeds through our neighborhoods, yet the fascination with violence and gangster heroes saturates youth culture. But some of Chicago’s youth have met a different kind of hero, whose documentary film on life in Mozambique lifted them to a new level of awareness, inspiring core values of respect, compassion for others and a desire to make a difference. Now they have a chance to meet him in person.

Mozambican youth documentary filmmaker and AIDS orphan, Alcides Soares, at 16 years of age crafted a ‘grab your heart’ documentary taking us through the grimmest reality of daily survival, and Alcides’s search for his lost siblings. His film, Home Is Where You Find It, is part of a program that teaches compassion, tolerance, trust, and hope in education; as well as the possibility of a healthy and happy future oppblåsbar Ball.

Members of the Chicago media are invited to join Chicago Public School students and teachers at two life-changing screenings of Home Is Where You Find It. Now 21 years old, and leading a life far removed from his tragic youth, Alcides is in the city as part of the Dialogue for Peace Outreach Program. This is a unique opportunity for students to view the film, meet and dialogue with Alcides Soares, a different kind of hero.

Screenings in two Chicago Public Schools:

When: Monday, Nov. 21, 2011
Where: First Screening: 9:30-11 a.m., at Hendricks Community Academy Elementary (4316 S Princeton Ave, Chicago)
Second Screening: 12:45-2:15 p.m., Josephine Locke Elementary School (2828 N Oak Park Ave, Chicago).
The screenings are being presented by Dialogue for Peace (DFP), an outreach program of Chicago’s very own Peace on Earth Film Festival (, which is held annually each February at the Chicago Cultural Center. The DFP outreach to students in the Chicago Public Schools is an ongoing part of the festival, which makes its presence felt in the city year-round. “We use films to engage children in dialogue on nonviolent practices.” said film festival director Nick Angotti.

Brad Parker, National Board Certified Teacher, has said of the program: “Students really open up. That was the real power of the program. I feel that after the dialogue and discussion, the class became incredibly more teachable — because they understood each other so much more and they understood their common humanity.”

Home Is Where You Find It, which Alcides Soares, an AIDS orphan, made in 2006, with the help and encouragement of Law and Order SVU, Executive Director, Neal Baer, Chris Zalla (director) and other L&O, SVC cast members, is a 16-minute film about his efforts to reunite the siblings of his shattered family. It is also a tale of young people coping without their parents in deepest poverty. His message to Chicago students is never give up, have trust in yourself and hope in the world, life becomes better.