SXSW Film [original Article]

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World Peace … and Other 4th-Grade Achievements

Documentary Feature, Emerging Visions
D: Chris Farina

It might be unusual for fourth-graders to study the philosophy of Sun Tzu, but it’s routine in the classroom of Charlottesville, Va., teacher John Hunter, who regularly quotes passages from The Art of War – a book about “how to avoid war,” he says often. Its lessons help the children navigate Hunter’s World Peace Game, an elaborate, eight-week adventure in critical thinking and conflict resolution that challenges kids to tackle war, natural disasters, and climate change while loftily inhabiting such roles as prime ministers, World Bank representatives, and arms dealers. This film follows the dramas of one particular classroom but also explores Hunter’s background, particularly as an African-American student during integration in the Sixties. Between Hunter’s guru demeanor (one of his students calls him a “brain-stretcher”) and the unavoidable exhilaration of watching kids – much less anyone – pushed past the perceived brink of their abilities, this story is tailor-made for the kind of nuts-and-bolts documentary-making that truly educates and inspires, with no small thanks to the straightforward style of director Chris Farina (who, incidentally, makes a second appearance at this year’s SXSW, as the owner of the titular lot in documentary The Parking Lot Movie).