A review of The Peacemaker, a new documentary by James Demo.

Anyone who has experience of 12 Step based Recovery will have heard the oft repeated lament, ‘if only the whole World did the Steps things would be so much better.’

At ORA we always emphasize two things. Firstly, most of the people involved with ORA found their path to Recovery through the Steps. Secondly, there are many pathways to Recovery and the 12 Steps are not for everyone. So that said we got an opportunity to look at the idea of the 12 Step approach having something to offer other areas of human relations with a recent preview of a new documentary film The Peacemaker.

Professor Padraig O’Malley is an extraordinary man, of this, filmmaker James Demo’s new study will leave no doubt in any viewer’s mind.

O’Malley has worked tirelessly, and in detriment to his own material and physical wellbeing for over 40 years. He has successfully brokered many critical peace deals as well as fostering environments for talk and reconciliation between the most bitter of enemies with his Forum For Cities In Transition (FCIT).

As the film unfolds the Professor’s story, he openly exposes his alcoholism. His contribution to the first major steps toward a peaceful solution to the problems in Northern Ireland are arranged in Padraig’s local “Irish” Pub in Boston. A drinking alcoholics logic suggesting that getting the two sides to drink together would help them see each others humanity

As the film and Padraig’s work develop so does his addiction, and the viewer gets the sense that a sheer force of will is driving the man, and the processes of peace.

From Ireland to Israel, the Balkans to Nigeria, Iraq, South Africa and in many other theatres of conflict and dischord Padraig O’Malley has striven to bring some kind of harmony, (real old school AA types will find it hard not to think of the St Francis prayer so often suggested for meditation in Step 11), with both success and failure as companions, it is his commitment to the process, the ongoing nature of change, which really inspires.

Padraig recognized, and sought help for his addiction in 2002. The film reveals some of the work he undertook in rehab, readers familiar with this will recognise the kind of 12 Step based self-evaluation work common to many facilities. The written Step 1, powerlessness and damage exercises, the acceptance of consequences. Although Padraig also had massive achievements in his active addiction, his personal pain, life with his own demons becomes clear throughout the documentary.

In the sections of the film dealing with Padraig’s work with FCIT, the “drinking together” approach has been long abandoned for a format that any member of any 12 Step fellowship would recognize as he realizes that his recovery provides a model for conflict resolution.

“As one alcoholic is in the best position to help another, so people from divided societies are in the best position to help each other,” Padraig explains. “It’s similar to the role people who are involved in recovery play in getting people to a meeting, where everyone tells the story of their conflict from how they experienced it. They can see that the first thing they have to do is to realize that they’re addicted to the violence, they’re part of the problem.”

This film has a true message of Recovery, but also a very realistic perspective of all types of resolution being a process, not an event.

You can see the trailer here.

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