One Peace at a Time
2009, NR, 83 min. Directed by Turk Pipkin.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 4, 2009
Austin-based writer, actor, and filmmaker Pipkin is the first to admit that the world’s problems are vast. No arguments there, although most of us are inclined to accept far-flung conditions such as hunger, poverty, and malnutrition as intractable and constant. Pipkin, however, believes otherwise. He believes in solutions and that problems are fixable and goals attainable. All it takes is will, desire, commitment, and money – and films such as One Peace at a Time, which exhorts viewers to step up and take action. Almost any action is good in the Pipkin playbook; pick one and “just do it,” as the slogan says. Pipkin builds on his previous documentary Nobelity, in which he speaks with Nobel Prize winners about world problems. He revisits some of their comments in One Peace at a Time, but the bulk of the documentary observes Pipkin as he traverses the world showing us a score of examples of solutions that are presently working. He observes a family-planning initiative in Thailand, the building of a community well in Ethiopia through the auspices of A Glimmer of Hope, orphanages in India run by the Miracle Foundation, the struggle to pass a cluster-munitions ban in Oslo, Wheels for Humanity’s wheelchair dissemination in Costa Rica, and housing proposals in Nepal, Kenya, and Ecuador executed by the AMD/Open Architecture Challenge. Locally, Willie Nelson comes down off a horse on his ranch to talk with Pipkin about biodiesel over a folksy game of chess and Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett talks with the filmmaker about the sad state of the world. Pipkin organizes the film around the idea that children throughout the world should be entitled to the basic rights of water, nutrition, education, health care, opportunity, shelter, and peace. One Peace at a Time overflows with good suggestions of ways to become part of the world’s solutions and manages to do it with crisp imagery, terrific music (from the likes of Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Explosions in the Sky, Bob Schneider, and Ben Harper), and a positive tone that neither excoriates viewers for their inactivity nor sugarcoats the predicaments. The film seeks to inspire, and that it does. However, questions inevitably arise about Pipkin’s choice to downplay any focus on American problems existing on our front doorstep. Not that comparisons should be made, but starving orphans in Bangladesh seem to trump malnourished children in Appalachia and homeless ones in Detroit. One also has to wonder about the extensive globe-trotting necessitated by the filming of One Peace at a Time and be curious about how many water wells could be dug and schoolbooks bought with the same funds used to inspire folks back on the home front. Inspiration is necessary, of course, but how much of it is needed to produce a loaf of bread? (See Special Screenings for several opportunities to see the movie with the filmmaker in attendance and "The State We're In," Dec. 4, for an interview.)