The end of September brings with it the kickoff of autumn, pumpkin-spice madness, and, of course, the latest edition of the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy’s Soft Power: The Monthly Roundup. The following selection highlights nine notable cultural diplomacy projects that took place around the globe this month.
Acclaimed Peking Opera star Zhang Huoding made her U.S.-debut earlier this month at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. Zhang’s performances in Legend of the White Snake and The Jewelry Purse introduced American audiences to Peking Opera, a form of traditional Chinese theater which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. The productions were the fifth collaboration in an ongoing relationship between The China Arts & Entertainment Group (CAEG), a creative enterprise under the administration of the Ministry of Culture for the People’s Republic of China, and the David H. Koch Theater.
Earlier this month, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) celebrated its 40th anniversary. The festival’s coveted People’s Choice Award went to Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s drama Room, while the Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award went to Winter on Fire, a film that takes an in-depth look at the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Additionally, Mexican film actor Gael García Bernal received rave reviews for his performances in Desierto, a thriller about a group from Mexico attempting to cross the Mexican-American border, and Eva No Duerme, which tells the true story of transporting the body of Argentina’s First Lady Eva Perón. Both films starring Bernal won the International Critics Prize.
Music lovers in the Colombian cities of Cali, Palmira, Buga, Pereira, Bogotá, and Calarca enjoyed live entertainment, film screenings, and musical education programming at the 9th Annual Cali Blues & Folk Festival from September 3-12. The event brought together artists from Colombia, Mexico, and the United States to celebrate the traditional music of North America (blues, rock, jazz, folk, and gospel) in dialogue with Colombian culture and its traditions. In addition to live performances from artists such as Tommy Z Band, Teresa Estrada, and Cotton Mouth Snake Blues, the festival featured classes about the foundations of blues and culture of the United States. The festival was organized by the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano, a non-profit foundation that builds cultural ties between the United States and Colombia.
This month Shanghai, China, and Hanoi, Vietnam, hosted the FEELRUSSIA Festival, a celebration of major trends, developments, and innovations in the field of culture and art in Russia. The festival featured classical and Russian folk concerts, live performances of Russian folk dancing, and a photo exhibition from the Russian Geographical Society highlighting the country’s natural landmarks. The festival, which had already attracted over 30,000 attendees in Milan, Italy, and Dresden, Germany, in the spring, will travel to Lyon, France, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, later this year.
Heading into its last month, Expo Milano 2015 hosted “National Day” celebrations for Angola, Bahrain, Belarus, Benin, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Comoros, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Palestine, Poland, São Tomé and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Timor-Leste, and Turkey in September. The celebrations included recitals of national anthems, flag raising ceremonies, tastings of culinary specialties, performances of traditional music and dancing, exchanges of gifts, forums, conferences, and remarks from various state delegations. A platform for the exchange of ideas and shared solutions on the theme of food, Expo 2015 has offered attendees the opportunity to taste the world’s best dishes while learning about the traditions of the more than 140 exhibitor countries.
The U.S. Department of State and espnW kicked off the Global Sports Mentoring Program on September 12. The program supports the Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative, which uses sports as a vehicle to advance the rights of women and girls around the world. The program will pair 16 senior female executives with emerging female leaders from Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, New Zealand, Mexico, Qatar, and Vietnam. The mentors, who hail from companies such as Burton Snowboards, Google, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment, Saatchi & Saatchi, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the Women’s Tennis Association, will share valuable business and leadership skills with participants. The aim of the initiative is for the program participants to develop strategic action plans to create sports opportunities for women and girls in their home countries.
The Royal Shakespeare Company launched an app with Samsung, RE: Shakespeare, which uses videos and interactive games to bring Shakespeare’s work to life in through a hip-hop lens. Voiced by experienced Shakespeare actor David Tennant, the app allows users to watch scenes from Much Ado About Nothing in 360° action, remix Shakespeare to Shlomo’s human beatboxing, lip-sync with poet Indigo Williams’ Shakespearean love lines and insults, or take a quiz about whether certain lines are Shakespearean or hip-hop in origin.
The AFI Latin American Film Festival showcased the best filmmaking from Latin America in September. The festival, now in its 26th year, included films from Spain and Portugal to celebrate Ibero-American cultural connections. This year’s selection of films included numerous international film festival favorites, award winners, local box office hits, and debut works by promising new talents. Highlights of the festival included Sand Dollars, starring legendary actress Geraldine Chaplin; Messi, a docudrama about the world’s greatest soccer player; Spanish thriller Marshland, winner of 10 Goya Awards; and Without Wings, the first U.S. feature to be made in Cuba since 1959.
In celebration of the UN’s International Day of Peace on September 21st, International Alert, a non-governmental peacebuilding organization that works with local partners in over 25 countries to lay the foundations for peace, organized the second annual Talking Peace Festival. The festival is a month-long series of events designed to spark conversations about peace through creativity. In addition to an exhibition of well-known street artists and a collaborative music project featuring work by Swedish pop group ABBA, Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, film-score composer A.R. Rahman, and influential composer Philip Glass, the festival also hosted events regarding food, technology, and comedy. The festival will wrap-up with #ART4PEACE, a live auction on October 2nd, which will showcase artworks inspired by peace from 20 acclaimed urban artists, many of whom hail from conflict-affected areas.