Documentary film shows quiet voice of local activism

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

Peace does not come easy — people must fight for it. In emPeace and the Quiet/em, a documentary by Emerson graduate student Beth Balaban, two women ardently pursue peace, their lives dedicated to advocacy that flies under the radar.

The film screens tonight at 7 p.m. in the Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, presented by the department of visual and media arts.

In 2009, Balaban was searching for her MFA in Media Arts thesis topic when her violin teacher mentioned a study she had taken part in called “State Violence and the Right to Peace.” The study was headed by activist Dr. Kathie Malley-Morrison. Balaban was introduced to Malley-Morrison and inspiration struck.

“I never thought about if I was entitled to live in a peaceful world,” said Balaban.

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In the film, Malley-Morrison and fellow activist Dot Walsh strive to create peace in the world of activism and service. emPeace and the Quiet/em chronicles the different facets of activism, including personal relationships, hard work, and education.

Balaban and Malley-Morrison bonded over their ideals concerning people’s right to peaceful change on a trip to The Peace Abbey, a Sherborn, Mass.-based organization that advocates for nonviolence and peaceful education. There, they met Walsh, who works with the Abbey.

The concept for the film arose from the pair’s mutual beliefs regarding activism. They sought to ask: What makes an activist and what are the personal rights and responsibilities of those that bear such a title?

Malley-Morrison, a psychology professor at Boston University, studies violence in relationships and across different cultural barriers. Walsh, an intern supervisor for Harvard, is dedicated to serving others and spreading the education of nonviolence through work at the Peace Abbey.

“It is an excellent example of the extraordinary work being done in the VMA program,” said VMA Program Coordinator Anna Feder during a phone interview.

Shes said she feels that the film covers important topics and has already been a great help for projects such as The Peace Abbey, which was in financial trouble, by showcasing the work done there and the good that comes out of it. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

When Balaban met her subjects, she only hoped to work with them, not necessarily make a story about them.

“The first meeting I had with Dr. Kathie Malley-Morrison in her office I thought, ‘Wow. This person is an amazing character,’” she said. “It was like I had to make a documentary about her, or with her, or for her. I loved her instantly.”

With the physical backbone of the Peace Abbey connecting Walsh and Malley-Morrison and the understated work being done by these two women, a film was created. The story is grounded in their work done at the Abbey.

Balaban noted that it’s important to learn not just what is being openly talked about, but also what isn’t being talked about.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on making hot topic films, especially in documentaries, but the focus of my film is very subtle and not necessarily something people would make a story about.”

Peace advocacy may not be a hot button issue, but it’s through work like that of these women that makes it omnipresent.

strongemPeace and the Quiet/em screens tonight at 7 p.m. in the Bright Family Screening Room, free for Emerson students./strong

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emDiaz can be reached at jaclyn_diaz@emerson.edu./em

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