As we race toward what is arguably the most important national election America has yet faced, issues and words are being bandied about in all corners. And while some of the words we’re hearing might prove hollow, what’s important to remember is the issues are not. With both presidential candidates offering stout yet divergent plans on how best to address the wars America is currently fighting, one local organization — the Ventura County Committee to Stop the War — is very clear on what needs to be done.

In order to help spread its message, the Committee to Stop the War is hosting its second annual Antiwar Film Festival, which will be staged in the Topping Room at Ventura’s Foster Library as part of ArtWalk on Sunday, Oct. 19. The festival will feature three documentaries: Meeting Resistance, Taxi to the Dark Side and Body of War, along with the feature film War Inc. While the event has a very strong educational focus, it isn’t about changing minds. Nor is it simply about preaching to the converted. Committee organizer John Osmand sees the festival as a chance to bring like-minded people together and motivate them into action.

“We’ve seen a lull in antiwar activism,” he said, “even as antiwar sentiment has increased.” Osmand thinks the impending election has upstaged war issues. “Many organizations have focused more on the elections than on building a mass protest movement.” More recently, Osmand added, “the economic crisis has overshadowed the imperialist crisis in the news, which contributes to shifting public priorities.”

Formed in March, 2007, the charter of the Ventura County Committee to Stop the War is to work with local groups and individuals in the organization toward education and activism within the county. “The main idea is education on issues that come up around war,” said Osmand, “and this year we have four films addressing different aspects of the current conflict and war in general, and we are hoping that the whole festival can give a complete as possible picture of what’s going on in the Middle East and in our society today.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War also played a role in organizing the festival. While sharing the view that this undertaking is a vital method of presenting information to the general public, the Veterans also see it as a way to offer an insight into the harsh realities of war. “It’s not this romantic idea that a lot of people feel it is, because of what our current administration likes to call it”, said Cherish Hodge, a member of Veterans Against the War.  “Films like these show the condition of the military and the conditions that soldiers have to live in, and then there are issues like mental health and substance abuse.”

Along with the three documentaries, the festival features a screening of John Cusack’s War Inc. A political satire set in the fictional country of Turaqistan, the film follows a hired hit-man whose charge is to assassinate a Middle Eastern oil minister so a private American corporation occupying the country can monopolize the bounty the war-torn nation offers.  Its inclusion within the program not only offers an alternative perspective on the issue of war, but also presents a very different emotional trigger for the general public. “You have a lot more latitude when it’s not a documentary,” explained War Inc.’s co-producer Grace Loh. “Some-times with satire and comedy you’re able to send messages home in a different way, and looking through an absurdist lens also helps you to see things more clearly. A documentary isn’t the right medium for us because that’s not what we do. This is the way we see it and how we can effectively convey it. As an artist you find the medium that works for you.”           

For festival details, please visit
www.vcstopthewar.blogspot.com.