Bullfrog Films, Box 149, Oley, PA 19547, U.S.A
Anyone interested in practicing or teaching conflict resolution may wish to consider the use of this film. It chronicles a community conflict in New Mexico. This is frontier country, sparsely populated with ranchers and loggers, and mainly a national forest. Ranchers and loggers intensely resented the efforts of the National Forestry Service to preserve trees, rather than logging and clearing for grazing. Anyone identified as an ecologist was vilified. At one point the county government passed a regulation requiring all families to possess guns. Into this unhappy context entered the county's new physician, fresh from residency. He noticed his patients' stress and increasing incidences of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, and depression. On inquiry, the patients could relate the stress to the land use conflict. The young doctor then did a very smart thing. He contacted an agency specializing in conflict resolution. A mediator worked with him in calling stakeholders together. People bitterly at odds with each other established ground-rules for dialogue. This began a process which lasted years.
The community sustained dialogue, gained knowledge of caring for their land, and made cooperative decisions. They appeared to have built a conflict-resolving structure which might serve them in the future.
The film-maker, Ben Daitz, gives unobtrusive commentary on the culture of the county and on the process as it unfolds.
I recently used this film in a training session with health workers. I was worried about its length - 55 minutes. I set people tasks in viewing- to map the conflict (players, issues, underlying values) and to trace the conflict transformation process. The participants easily sustained attention, worked hard and found the video a useful learning medium.
I recommend this film to others. It can be obtained from Bullfrog Films, Box 149, Oley, PA 19547, U.S.A. Phone 610-779-8226; www.bullfrogfilms.com.
Joanna Santa Barbara is a psychiatrist who teaches peace studies at McMaster University.