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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Enlarge the Future

British actress and political activist Vanessa Redgrave is set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the closing Sunday of the 52nd Antalya International Film Festival.

Previously known as the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, the film fest is Turkey's longest running, and considered the top of its kind in the country. Running until December 6, this year it captured my interest for two reasons.

The first is my neice, who has been specially selected to help out during the eight day programme which will host prominent stars from home and abroad. The second is Vanessa Redgrave.

I became a fan of Redgrave because of her Shakespeare performances. During her career she has appeared on stage as well as on screen; with Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company, in London's West End and New York's Broadway theaters.

Redgrave is an active supporter of global human rights, too, and has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and campaigned against the war in Iraq among other issues, including the displacement of Palestinians.

When Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar in 1978, members of the Jewish Defense League burned effigies of Redgrave and picketed the Academy Awards ceremony to protest against both Redgrave and her support of the Palestinian cause. When she won, her speech was dignified. She thanked the Jewish community for refusing "to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums" whose behaviour she described as "an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression".

It showed the measure of the woman she was, but I really fell in love with her during some of her more recent interviews. The strength she has shown during a period where, within 14 months in 2009 and 2010, she suffered the loss of a daughter and two siblings is an inspiration. A beautiful lady who cares as much for her world as she does about her craft, and who has remained grounded enough to ignore the trappings of fame.

We could learn a lot from Redgrave. We need more people like her with ideals not tied down to animosity and hatred, but forgiveness and compassion. If role models are indeed needed for young women today, they could do no better than look to Redgrave as an example of inner strength and integrity.

And sometimes we can be our own best role models. My neice suffers from familial Mediterranean fever, which primarily affects populations originating in the Mediterranean region, particularly people of Armenian, Arab, Turkish, or Jewish ancestry. She, however, hasn't let this affect her. She leads a full, active life and is an inspiration to me, too.

It also fills me with hope that the small bunch of hoodlums we are contending with in our times is just that: They are not indicative of one race or culture. We have to remember that when we are faced with the horrors we are today.

In a world were it seems that all our futures have narrowed, it makes sense to take the hardest path of effort to continue our good works despite the obstacles the historical acts of others have placed in our way.

Kansas businessman and writer Paul Boeses said that although forgiveness does not change the past, it does enlarge the future. I prefer to say that although our scars dictate who we are, they don't have to dictate where we go.

It is only then we will feel that the future is not behind us, but filled with possibility, it lights the road ahead.

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