Gone global: Hunter and his World Peace game soar
If there were a competition for the most modest man in Charlottesville, teacher and World Peace Game creator John Hunter and local filmmaker Chris Farina would be neck-and-neck for the prize.
"I'm just along for the ride," says Farina, who produced and directed the 2010 film World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements, a documentary about the complex game Hunter developed over his three decades teaching and which has taken the two men on a wild ride around the globe where the film has screened for world leaders and thousands of educators.
"This is all about John," Farina insists.
"This has nothing to do with me," insists Hunter, who believes the game he created, which puts children in positions of world leaders facing complex problems including famine and war, taps into a common desire most humans share: to find ways to get along even with those who are very different.
"It's something that's in all of us," he says.
Sorry, guys, but someone's going to have to take credit for what's happened over the past two years, since the film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2010 after previewing the previous month in Charlottesville at the Paramount Theater.
In addition to traveling to a half dozen countries since those first screenings, the film– and Hunter as a speaker– have found audiences in some lofty places. Hunter, who will speak to educators and teach the game in a variety of Asian countries this summer, was a featured presenter at the 2011 TED conference, an exclusive annual event that invites some of the world's most prominent individuals to share their wisdom. While he shared billing with such luminaries as Bill Gates and General Stanley McChrystal, Hunter's presentation stood out enough that the Huffington Post named him the most influential of the presenters.
More recently, in late March, Hunter and Farina traveled to the Pentagon with the current crop of World Peace Game-playing fourth graders at Agnor-Hurt Elementary and with Albemarle County Schools Superintendent Pam Moran, where they were warmly received by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta.
"He spent about 25 minutes with us," says Hunter, who was impressed by how seriously Panetta and the multi-starred generals treated their visitors.
"He asked them questions and really listened to their answers," Hunter recalls.
Hunter, who retired last year and now teaches part-time, has a book deal underway and has launched the World Peace Game Foundation as well as a new career as a motivational speaker. The film will screen on public television station WHTJ here in Charlottesville on May 9 and then will air on other public television stations around the country in coming months thanks to underwriting from two-Memphis organizations: the education nonprofit the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence, where Hunter is now a fellow, and FedEx.
For those who'd like another chance to see the film on the big screen, it returns to the Paramount Theater on Sunday, April 22 at 4pm.