Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • I was basically concerned about what was going on in the world.

  • I couldn't understand

  • the starvation, the destruction,

  • the killing of innocent people.

  • Making sense of those things

  • is a very difficult thing to do.

  • And when I was 12, I became an actor.

  • I was bottom of the class. I haven't got any qualifications.

  • I was told I was dyslexic.

  • In fact, I have got qualifications.

  • I got a D in pottery, which was the one thing that I did get --

  • which was useful, obviously.

  • And so concern

  • is where all of this comes from.

  • And then, being an actor, I was doing these different kinds of things,

  • and I felt the content of the work that I was involved in

  • really wasn't cutting it, that there surely had to be more.

  • And at that point, I read a book by Frank Barnaby,

  • this wonderful nuclear physicist,

  • and he said that media had a responsibility,

  • that all sectors of society had a responsibility

  • to try and progress things and move things forward.

  • And that fascinated me,

  • because I'd been messing around with a camera most of my life.

  • And then I thought, well maybe I could do something.

  • Maybe I could become a filmmaker.

  • Maybe I can use the form of film constructively

  • to in some way make a difference.

  • Maybe there's a little change I can get involved in.

  • So I started thinking about peace,

  • and I was obviously, as I said to you,

  • very much moved by these images,

  • trying to make sense of that.

  • Could I go and speak to older and wiser people

  • who would tell me how they made sense

  • of the things that are going on?

  • Because it's obviously incredibly frightening.

  • But I realized that,

  • having been messing around with structure as an actor,

  • that a series of sound bites in itself wasn't enough,

  • that there needed to be a mountain to climb,

  • there needed to be a journey that I had to take.

  • And if I took that journey,

  • no matter whether it failed or succeeded, it would be completely irrelevant.

  • The point was that I would have something

  • to hook the questions of -- is humankind fundamentally evil?

  • Is the destruction of the world inevitable? Should I have children?

  • Is that a responsible thing to do? Etc., etc.

  • So I was thinking about peace,

  • and then I was thinking, well where's the starting point for peace?

  • And that was when I had the idea.

  • There was no starting point for peace.

  • There was no day of global unity.

  • There was no day of intercultural cooperation.

  • There was no day when humanity came together,

  • separate in all of those things

  • and just shared it together --

  • that we're in this together,

  • and that if we united and we interculturally cooperated,

  • then that might be the key to humanity's survival.

  • That might shift the level of consciousness

  • around the fundamental issues that humanity faces --

  • if we did it just for a day.

  • So obviously we didn't have any money.

  • I was living at my mom's place.

  • And we started writing letters to everybody.

  • You very quickly work out what is it that you've got to do

  • to fathom that out.

  • How do you create a day voted by every single head of state in the world

  • to create the first ever Ceasefire Nonviolence Day,

  • the 21st of September?

  • And I wanted it to be the 21st of September

  • because it was my granddad's favorite number.

  • He was a prisoner of war.

  • He saw the bomb go off at Nagasaki.

  • It poisoned his blood. He died when I was 11.

  • So he was like my hero.

  • And the reason why 21 was the number is

  • 700 men left, 23 came back,

  • two died on the boat and 21 hit the ground.

  • And that's why we wanted it to be the 21st of September as the date of peace.

  • So we began this journey,

  • and we launched it in 1999.

  • And we wrote to heads of state, their ambassadors,

  • Nobel Peace laureates, NGOs, faiths,

  • various organizations -- literally wrote to everybody.

  • And very quickly, some letters started coming back.

  • And we started to build this case.

  • And I remember the first letter.

  • One of the first letters was from the Dalai Lama.

  • And of course we didn't have the money; we were playing guitars

  • and getting the money for the stamps that we were sending out all of [this mail].

  • A letter came through from the Dalai Lama saying,

  • "This is an amazing thing. Come and see me.

  • I'd love to talk to you about the first ever day of peace."

  • And we didn't have money for the flight.

  • And I rang Sir Bob Ayling, who was CEO of BA at the time,

  • and said, "Mate, we've got this invitation.

  • Could you give me a flight? Because we're going to go see him."

  • And of course, we went and saw him and it was amazing.

  • And then Dr. Oscar Arias came forward.

  • And actually, let me go back to that slide,

  • because when we launched it in 1999 --

  • this idea to create the first ever day of ceasefire and non-violence --

  • we invited thousands of people.

  • Well not thousands -- hundreds of people, lots of people --

  • all the press, because we were going to try and create

  • the first ever World Peace Day, a peace day.

  • And we invited everybody,

  • and no press showed up.

  • There were 114 people there -- they were mostly my friends and family.

  • And that was kind of like the launch of this thing.

  • But it didn't matter because we were documenting, and that was the thing.

  • For me, it was really about the process.

  • It wasn't about the end result.

  • And that's the beautiful thing about the camera.

  • They used to say the pen is mightier than the sword. I think the camera is.

  • And just staying in the moment with it was a beautiful thing

  • and really empowering actually.

  • So anyway, we began the journey.

  • And here you see people like Mary Robinson, I went to see in Geneva.

  • I'm cutting my hair, it's getting short and long,

  • because every time I saw Kofi Annan,

  • I was so worried that he thought I was a hippie that I cut it,

  • and that was kind of what was going on.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, I'm not worried about it now.

  • So Mary Robinson,

  • she said to me, "Listen, this is an idea whose time has come. This must be created."

  • Kofi Annan said, "This will be beneficial to my troops on the ground."

  • The OAU at the time, led by Salim Ahmed Salim,

  • said, "I must get the African countries involved."

  • Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace laureate,

  • president now of Costa Rica,

  • said, "I'll do everything that I can."

  • So I went and saw Amr Moussa at the League of Arab States.

  • I met Mandela at the Arusha peace talks,

  • and so on and so on and so on --

  • while I was building the case

  • to prove whether this idea

  • would make sense.

  • And then we were listening to the people. We were documenting everywhere.

  • 76 countries in the last 12 years, I've visited.

  • And I've always spoken to women and children wherever I've gone.

  • I've recorded 44,000 young people.

  • I've recorded about 900 hours of their thoughts.

  • I'm really clear about how young people feel

  • when you talk to them about this idea

  • of having a starting point for their actions for a more peaceful world

  • through their poetry, their art, their literature,

  • their music, their sport, whatever it might be.

  • And we were listening to everybody.

  • And it was an incredibly thing, working with the U.N.

  • and working with NGOs and building this case.

  • I felt that I was presenting a case

  • on behalf of the global community

  • to try and create this day.

  • And the stronger the case and the more detailed it was,

  • the better chance we had of creating this day.

  • And it was this stuff, this,

  • where I actually was in the beginning

  • kind of thinking no matter what happened, it didn't actually matter.

  • It didn't matter if it didn't create a day of peace.

  • The fact is that, if I tried and it didn't work,

  • then I could make a statement

  • about how unwilling the global community is to unite --

  • until, it was in Somalia, picking up that young girl.

  • And this young child

  • who'd taken about an inch and a half out of her leg with no antiseptic,

  • and that young boy who was a child soldier,

  • who told me he'd killed people -- he was about 12 --

  • these things made me realize

  • that this was not a film that I could just stop.

  • And that actually, at that moment something happened to me,

  • which obviously made me go, "I'm going to document.

  • If this is the only film that I ever make,

  • I'm going to document until this becomes a reality."

  • Because we've got to stop, we've got to do something

  • where we unite --

  • separate from all the politics and religion

  • that, as a young person, is confusing me.

  • I don't know how to get involved in that process.

  • And then on the seventh of September, I was invited to New York.

  • The Costa Rican government and the British government

  • had put forward to the United Nations General Assembly,

  • with 54 co-sponsors,

  • the idea of the first ever Ceasefire Nonviolence Day,

  • the 21st of September, as a fixed calendar date,

  • and it was unanimously adopted by every head of state in the world.

  • (Applause)

  • Yeah, but there were hundreds of individuals, obviously, who made that a reality.

  • And thank you to all of them.

  • That was an incredible moment.

  • I was at the top of the General Assembly just looking down into it and seeing it happen.

  • And as I mentioned, when it started,

  • we were at the Globe, and there was no press.

  • And now I was thinking, "Well, the press it really going to hear this story."

  • And suddenly, we started to institutionalize this day.

  • Kofi Annan invited me on the morning of September the 11th

  • to do a press conference.

  • And it was 8:00 AM when I stood there.

  • And I was waiting for him to come down, and I knew that he was on his way.

  • And obviously he never came down. The statement was never made.

  • The world was never told there was a day of global ceasefire and nonviolence.

  • And it was obviously a tragic moment

  • for the thousands of people who lost their lives,

  • there and then subsequently all over the world.

  • It never happened.

  • And I remember thinking,

  • "This is exactly why, actually,

  • we have to work even harder.

  • And we have to make this day work.

  • It's been created; nobody knows.

  • But we have to continue this journey,

  • and we have to tell people,

  • and we have to prove it can work."

  • And I left New York freaked,

  • but actually empowered.

  • And I felt inspired

  • by the possibilities

  • that if it did, then maybe we wouldn't see things like that.

  • I remember putting that film out and going to cynics.

  • I was showing the film,

  • and I remember being in Israel and getting it absolutely slaughtered

  • by some guys having watched the film --

  • that it's just a day of peace, it doesn't mean anything.

  • It's not going to work; you're not going to stop the fighting in Afghanistan;

  • the Taliban won't listen, etc., etc.

  • It's just symbolism.

  • And that was even worse

  • than actually what had just happened in many ways,

  • because it couldn't not work.

  • I'd spoken in Somalia, Burundi, Gaza, the West Bank,

  • India, Sri Lanka, Congo, wherever it was,

  • and they'd all tell me, "If you can create a window of opportunity,

  • we can move aid, we can vaccinate children.

  • Children can lead their projects.

  • They can unite. They can come together. If people would stop, lives will be saved."

  • That's what I'd heard.

  • And I'd heard that from the people who really understood what conflict was about.

  • And so I went back to the United Nations.

  • I decided that I'd continue filming and make another movie.

  • And I went back to the U.N. for another couple of years.

  • We started moving around the corridors of the U.N. system,

  • governments and NGOs,

  • trying desperately to find somebody

  • to come forward and have a go at it,

  • see if we could make it possible.

  • And after lots and lots of meetings obviously,

  • I'm delighted that this man, Ahmad Fawzi,

  • one of my heroes and mentors really,

  • he managed to get UNICEF involved.