7 festivals... and other 'Achievements' for local film

cover 0907.inddChris Farina's film, subject of a February cover story, is screening this month at festivals as far away as Norway.

Seven months after it premiered at the South By Southwest film festival, a Charlottesville-made film continues to reel in accolades including invitations to seven festivals in the next month from Palo Alto to Norway.

"It seems like we're on the cusp of things happening," says director Chris Farina, noting that in addition to the festivals, the international television broadcast rights to World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements have been picked up by a distributor, which will present the film at a trade show in France this month.

Additionally, the film is one of 13 finalists and the only U.S. film still competing for the "Japan Prize," an educational media prize awarded by NHK Television in Japan.

The film–- the subject of the Hook's February 18, 2010 cover story–- focuses on Albemarle County teacher John Hunter and his World Peace Game, which teaches students conflict resolution and critical thinking. Hunter created the three-dimensional game as a young teacher more than 30 years ago and has taught it to children from elementary to high school.

Thanks to a partnership with UVA's Darden School, Hunter is working on developing an "executive" version of the game for adults and is considering possible business angles, but the primary goal, says Farina, remains to push for the game to be taught in schools not only across the country but around the world.

As for the film, Charlottesville audiences won't be slighted. They can see it at the Virginia Film Festival right here in Charlottesville.

To that end, Farina says, UVA's Curry School of Education has helped Hunter connect with Warren County schools near Winchester, where administrators have expressed interest in having their own staff learn to teach the game.

"It's a test case scenario," notes Farina, who hopes that the film festival exposure will help World Peace find a broad U.S. audience akin to the recently announced PBS deal scored by The Parking Lot Movie– a film, coincidentally, about the Corner Parking Lot which is owned by Farina.

While many other films on the public school system focus on the flaws, World Peace is inspiring, Farina says, because it encourages young teachers to reach higher and see that they their creativity needn't be entirely squelched by a focus on standardized testing.

"The game is a product of our public schools," he says. "It says, it can be done."