Tiffin University's School of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences sponsored a screening of the documentary "Coexist," which tells the stories of survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide Thursday evening at The Ritz Theatre.
Adam Mazo, executive producer and director of the film, spent time on the campuses of Tiffin University and Heidelberg University and will spend more time there today.
He also visited Columbian High School, where he spoke to classes from Columbian, Tiffin Middle School, Calvert Catholic Schools and Bridges Community Academy.
Students saw the film and Mazo answered questions afterward.
"The documentary generated from this experience, has been featured at film festivals, conferences,schools and universities worldwide." said Joshua Hill, program chair for graduate studies for TU's School of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences.
"It tells the stories of the 1994 Rwandan genocide survivors as they search for ways to coexist with their loved ones' murderers and what we can learn from the experience of these victims in their efforts to re-humanize those who attacked them," Hill said. "The film has major benefits to the exposure to an issue that most students are not as familiar with. It seeks to bring in ideas of non-violent conflict with a broader impact on society."
Mazo graduated from University of Florida with a degree in television production, worked for several major news outlets, and in 2006, went to Rwanda to film and document the country's reconciliation efforts.
The story of one genocide survivor, Agnes, was incredible and moving, Mazo said.
"I knew how to share a story with a large group of people and (wanted) to help them learn (about the genocide) through her experiences," Mazo said. "Her story moved me the most and I realized that there is more to be done."
The film is not just about the Rwandan genocide, but a campaign to stop bullying. The project includes the 40-minute film and a four-lesson teacher's guide that can be used to support positive school environments and to encourage positive choices to prevent violence.
"I hope that students take away and that I am able to spread the message about (bullying) and what it means to treat others as different," Mazo said. "People deserve to be treated with respect and kindness and for people to consider that there are people in the world today that do make those kinds of choices to harm others."
Mazo said we all have the power of choice and people should have a mutual acceptance for difference.
"For a setting like this and for being together for a short time, I hope that they have a moment to pause and reflect on how they face a conflict and discover ways to address it more peacefully and safer than before," Mazo said. "That is huge because a lot of choices are made with split-second decisions, that if they have that space and think for a moment 'What would I or should I do?' on how to face that conflict."
After the film, Steven Gashumba, a Rwandan survivor, spoke about his experiences. Gashumba's parents fled to Uganda as refugees. He said he returned after the genocide and saw bodies still in the streets.
"This is a story about the Rwandan genocide, but it is not just about the genocide; it brings the message home," Gashumba said.
Before Mazo ended his program, he urged students to go out and have a meal with someone who is different, to get to know them.
"People are not all the same and should be treated as individuals and deserve respect," Mazo said.
The film was funded through donations, grants and a lot of generous individuals, Mazo said.
The project is trying to raise $20,000 before Sunday to get the film screened on American Public Television.
"Currently we are at about $17,000," Mazo said.
The donations are for administrative, technical, legal and creative costs that APT requires. If the they do not meet the goal by Sunday, all pledges will be returned.