At a time when sensationalized stories about community violence and sectarian hatreds are multiplying everywhere, Karim Mirshahi, publisher of Waterfront Magazine, decided it was time to change the subject. In 2018, he launched the ‘Film For Peace’ (FFP) contest and invited filmmakers from around the world to tell their stories about achievements in peace and cooperation.

“We need to start this discussion about ending violence in our communities, and I wondered what would happen if I invited everybody to share their ideas about peace,” Mirshahi said.

The response was overwhelming. More than 1,100 short films were submitted representing almost every country in the world and other film festivals welcomed the inaugural Film For Peace festival (Sept. 21, 2019) as a ground breaking initiative.

The issues of violence and cruelties – especially among young people – are overwhelming, and so “I am delighted and proud to host Waterfront Magazine’s “Film for Peace” Initiative” at our closing gala party, said Sabine Mondestin, co-founder of the Open World Toronto Film Festival.

Mirshahi said his original plan was to create something for youth in Toronto or the GTA, but he quickly realized he’d tapped into a vein of pain and hope that united people of all ages and backgrounds living everywhere in the world.

“That’s when I realized this could be a Film for Peace festival” and the short film contest became a filmmakers’ movement to explore and celebrate global peace and cooperation between people, he explained. “I hope that we, as a group, can do something to make a difference,” Mirshahi added.

Pulitzer Prize-nominated Canadian journalist Barry Brown has volunteered his time to serve as one of the festival’s judges and promoters. Brown, author of Humanity: The World Before Religion, War & Inequality, said the Film for Peace festival is a reminder that making a film is like building human civilization – it’s a collective effort.

“Although modern media is filled with images of prehistoric humanity at war, that’s not accurate. There is no evidence of organized human war anywhere on Earth before about 6,000 years ago. War is a new invention.

The spread of human language, trade and technology was the result of cooperation not conflict,” Brown explained. The films he’s seen so far are “incredible. The diversity of themes and styles are breathtaking. There are intimate stories about personal struggles for peace against mental illness and social ignorance. Others are humorous animated tales about life in a conflicted neighborhood. And then there are some deeply moving shorts about life in a war zone.” Natasha Ramjohn-Mohan, founder of FBW+, an integrated marketing and public relations agency, is another volunteer. She said Toronto is the perfect place to start a movement like Film for Peace and see it grow into a global phenomenon.

“Explosive violence is a worldwide problem. This festival is one step towards finding a solution,” she said.

■ 1- Hossein Khalaj, David Rosen, Urszula Ula, Karim Mirshahi, Ghazaleh Ghasemi
■ 2-Urszula Ula
■ 3-Yanka Van Der Kolk, ChaCha Chapin, Ewa J. Antczak, Urszula Ula
■ 4-Open World Film Festival founders Sabine Mondestin and Steve Lareau
■ 5- Guests
■ 6- Kyra Ottier, Karim Mirshahi, Judi Embden
■ 7- Warren Booth and Guest