Silverthorne man shares film on Belfast, Northern Ireland, at library
If you go
What: “Choose,” a film and presentation about Belfast, Northern Ireland, with Zachary Schmidt
When: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29
Where: Blue River Room, North Branch Library, 651 Center Circle, Silverthorne
In 2012, Silverthorne resident Zachary Schmidt experienced firsthand the sometimes-tenuous relationships among the many population divisions of Northern Ireland — Protestant and Catholic, Loyalist and Republican, Nationalist and Unionist, local and migrant.
Schmidt spent a year in the capital city of Belfast doing volunteer reconciliation work, and on Wednesday, Oct. 29, he will share his experiences with the Summit County community during a presentation at the North Branch Library in Silverthorne.
Reconciliation involves building social bridges among different ethnic cultures, Schmidt said, in this case, bridging the divides among the many groups that have traditionally been at odds in Belfast.
“People who would normally not ever meet each other, you create environments and forums where they come into contact with each other,” he said. “It’s a way to heal communities from war and violence in the past. It has a lot to do with the arts. The arts are used a lot — music, film, sports are used a lot — and there will be some events that are planned where you go through reconciliation methods.”
Each day of his time in Belfast was a bit different from the last, Schmidt said, whether it was creating printed resources to inspire conversations, playing music or giving presentations at colleges, schools and a few churches.
“I helped in putting together a booklet that a church or school would use with students as a resource to build conversation and look at the issues of the city of Belfast and the divisions,” he said. “So I helped write the questions and come up with the procedures and put in the photos and topics of how to go about reconciling differences.”
CONNECTING THROUGH FILM
Schmidt also interviewed people around the city for a couple of short films, the most consuming project being his work on “Choose,” which he will show as part of his presentation in Silverthorne.
“I had never worked with film before,” Schmidt said. “I was very, very involved with this film. I did all of the interviewing, I did all of the music for the film, and I helped do some of the shooting and a lot of the editing.”
During the presentation, Schmidt will share a bit of the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland — “not very much because it’s huge and it’s complicated and I don’t even know it that well; just enough history that it will give context to the film” — along with some personal stories of his experience in Belfast and possibly some music.
“I think people would find it interesting, and also, we look at these countries across the way and we don’t really have an idea of their history or what’s going on there, but really, the issues are universal,” he said. “You can really see a lot of the same kind of stuff going on in our own country.”
BACK TO BELFAST
Schmidt will be returning to Belfast in November to pursue more creative endeavors in music and film. Living in the city and working with a reconciliation program resulted in a lot of personal growth, he said, which had its ups and downs.
“For one, when you see another culture from an outside perspective like that, you recognize things in your own self, as well, that are very similar,” he said. “I got to learn a lot, I got to travel a lot; it definitely increased my capacity as a musician in terms of creativity. I met a lovely girl there who I might marry — that was definitely rewarding.”
But it was a struggle to understand the vastness of all of the history behind the current situation in the country, Schmidt said, and sometimes it felt like the work he was doing might not be having the positive impact he was seeking.
“It was hard to qualify the work we were doing,” he said. “You don’t really know what it’s going to turn into. You don’t know, down the road, whether it’s going to have any good result or not. It’s the kind of work where you don’t see immediate results, so sometimes you say, you don’t know if you’re having a positive effect or not, that can be difficult.”
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