Global exposure: 'Fourth Grade' film racks up honors

It may not yet have achieved world peace, but a locally-made film has gotten a world stage. John Hunter, the star of World Peace & Other Fourth Grade Achievements as well as the creator of the game that inspired the film, joined such luminaries as Bill Gates, retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, and film critic Roger Ebert as featured presenters at the exclusive TED Conference last month in Long Beach, California.

"He got a standing ovation," says the filmmaker, Chris Farina.

Talking to audiences who'd ponied up no less than $3,500 per seat, Hunter's appearance may have helped the picture rack up new achievements since the film first screened in Charlottesville in February 2010.

"It's beyond our wildest dreams where this film is going," says Farina. "Five years ago, we were scrambling to come up with money to shoot at our local school. Now we're getting calls from Korea."

Indeed, the film has aired on South Korean televisions stations as well as on Al Hurra, a mideast competitor to Al Jazeera. Farina says he's currently negotiating a deal with an American broadcaster, which he hopes will help pay off debt he's still carrying from the film's estimated $120,000 budget.

The connections the two men made at TED are also bearing some fruit, says Farina, who will fly with Hunter to California later this month for two screenings: one in Palo Alto and another at an educational summit in San Francisco. The film will also appear at Harvard University on April 26, and at a fundraiser in Asheville in early May. In June, it'll show at a conference put on by the Aspen Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit attracted by the game that puts students in the position of world leaders.

Farina says the whirlwind of activity is overwhelming, but he and Hunter are ready for more.

"We still very much feel like this is just beginning," says Farina. "Even if the monetary issues don't resolve, we know that the other part– the more important part– is succeeding."