The Exeter Bulletin — Spring 2000
Lydia Smith '82 and Kyra Thompson '82
October 15, 2008
Lydia Smith and Kyra Thompson were friends while attending the Academy. They shared an early interest in theater, and both found themselves living in Los Angeles and working in the film industry after college. Nothing unusual there, but as coincidence would have it, both had long given up on performing in favor of work behind the scenes, writing, directing, and editing; both also shared a passion for documentary films.
Over the past 12 years, Smith has worked most often as a camera assistant on film projects ranging from commercials and music videos, to documentaries and major Hollywood features like Ed Wood and Dangerous Minds. "I found that documentaries, films with a conscience, were the best place for me to channel my energies," says Smith. In 1996, she formed Phenomenal Filmworks to produce films and videos dedicated to bettering the lives of children. Thompson says she "fell" into documentary work early on in her career and was immediately captivated by the genre. "I'm a busy body by nature," she jokes. "With each new project, you get to stick your nose into a new subject." Her resume includes a number of high-profile projects, including the Emmy nominated films Dying to Tell the Story, about war journalists, A Century of Women, a six-hour series, and The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, a two-hour documentary on women in television.
So, when Thompson began putting together the crew for a new CNN project about the children's peace movement in war-ravaged Colombia, Smith was at the top of her list. "Lydia is fluent in Spanish, interested in children, and has a lot of production experience," says Thompson. "Plus, I thought it would be great working together."
Soldiers of Peace: A Children's Crusade, the resulting one-hour documentary, aired this past fall. It profiles five of the heroic teenagers involved in the peace movement and travels with them to an international peace conference in The Hague. "Colombia is not front page news in the U.S., but it should be," says Smith. "There is a civil war going on there—a very brutal one. This film opens up the discussion."
While the film portrays a country plagued by violence, the resounding message is one of hope and optimism, that change is possible and that children can make a difference. "There is a quote in the film that has really stuck with me," says Thompson. "Farliz, a young girl says, 'people always say that children are the future, but we're not, we are the present.' Children care, they have opinions, and we need to remember to listen."
The project ultimately lasted six months, with Smith and Thompson spending several weeks in Colombia shooting over 40 hours of raw footage; research and editing back in the States constituted the bulk of their time together. Since its airing, the filmmakers have remained committed to keeping Colombia and the children's peace movement in the public eye. To that end, Smith returned to Exeter Academy this past January to screen the film and conduct workshops as part of the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration.
Smith and Thompson have set up The Children's Peace Movement of Colombia Scholarship Fund, to help members of the peace movement attend school in the United States. For information, contact Lydiabsmith@earthlink.net.
— Bill Ewing