Wednesday, 5 September 2012


The film "How Far Is Heaven", is set in Jerusalem,
an isolated community on the Whanganui River in New Zealand
"Without your past who are you, and does it matter if anyone knows?" Solange, Rwandan Refugee

Everyone has a story to tell. Stories enrich us, and the creative community of filmmakers and storytellers can capture, preserve and share the culture and heritage of often forgotten, or isolated people.

In 2011, film-makers Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith created a film about the 120-year-old Sisters of Compassion convent located in Jerusalem; an isolated community along the Whanganui River of New Zealand. The story, "How Far Is Heaven", tells of three remaining three Pākehā nuns who lived there and the local Maori community that embraced them. This is one of several films about small communities, presented at the New Zealand 2012 International Film Festival. The nuns reportedly no longer live there since the film was shot. The filmmakers have shared a part of the community that no longer exists.

Irish-born author, Colum McCann, came to the USA in the 1980s and set out across the USA, on bike, to find stories. He found many. In a recent interview with NPR host Neal Conan, at the Apsen Institute Ideas Festival and Story Swap Project, he says 

"Storytelling is about understanding other people ... if we can understand what’s happening to others, then we can finely, sort of, understand what’s happening to ourselves because there’s really loneliness in not being able to tell your story."

The Story Swap is a powerful storytelling idea that builds community. Storytelling creatives abound, such as:

The League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling including New York State.
Zanendabe: The Institute of African Storytellers.

Mapping Memories "is a collaborative media project which uses personal stories and a range of media tools (video, sound walks, mapping, photography) to better understand the experiences of youth with refugee experience in Montreal". Hip Hop artists, No Bad Sound, in "Roots To Rap With: Expressing Identity Through Music" use music to tell about their roots and their new life in Canada; to let people of other cultures understand each other.

Stories are powerful. Today, they can be readily created and shared. What stories can your community share with the world?

LINK: How Far Is Heaven (Trailer)
LINK: Interview with Colum McCann (Audio)
LINK: Mapping Memories Project (Video)

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