Arno Peters: Radical Map, Remarkable Man DVD
A film review posted online by a geography professor:
Equal-area For Equal Rights
"This short and very informative documentary looks critically at the controversial Peters projection - a map that requires you to question your worldview, if not change it. The film gives the viewer an overview of the history of the Peters projection and uses just enough biographical information about Arno Peters to inform the viewer how such a map can be inspired by such a man. In Arno Peters' own voice, the purpose and importance of the equal-area map is explained, putting a very human face to the reasons cartographers should be careful and judicious when choosing map projections.
"The documentary makers don't canonize Arno Peters for his revolutionary map but give him due credit for being a driving force in informing the intelligentsia about the need for equal-area projections' essential place as a first step by which equal rights may be envisioned - and hopefully championed.
"The film has very high production quality and is expertly narrated. As a cartography instructor at a university I plan to show this film to all my students for its historical importance and, most importantly, because it is a film that asks questions rather than gives answers, thereby putting the onus of judgment onto the student or audience. "
Darin Jensen, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
"Absolutely fascinating stuff. Every now and then you are exposed to something that is truly amazing...The DVD is right on target in addressing the social ills of our world. I have shared it already with some of my co-workers and plan on giving it a showing at our local Rotary club meeting in the future. "
John Ogden, Gazette Printers
"Very enlightening. I don't think I will ever look at a map the same way again. "
Tracie Morrow, Youth for Human Rights, http://youthforhumanrights.org/
"The DVD is a tremendous effort and a remarkable review of Arno Peters' life and his achievements in the field of maps. It is impressive to listen to, and to see, Arno as a contemporary witness in a changing world."
Dr. Gunther Krause, Marine Scientist, Germany
"The reaction to the DVD has been great! It IS an important story that needs to be told. Myths die hard and facts, when brought to light, eclipse falsity. "
Carlyle Lynch, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYC Public Library.
"This DVD on the legendary Peters Map was an eye-opener, graphically imaginative and instructive. It made me want to get back into the classroom."
Norman Feingold, retired teacher (high school history in New York City) & former principal (Saddle Brook, NJ & Long Island, NY)
Selected for the Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival (August, 2008; Houston, TX) showcasing films that educate and enlighten, as well as offer hope, encouragement and inspiration to contribute towards the betterment of society.
Review appearing in the February, 2009 NEMO Newsletter. (North East Map Organization)
"We don't need a new map, we need a new view of the world"-Arno Peters
The centerpiece of this DVD is a thirty minute film on Arno Peters, creator of the controversial Peters map. Map professionals are familiar with the map's rocky reception; as the film points out, the map "provoked controversy and outrage, probably more so than any map in history." For specialists then, the highlight of the film will most likely be the interviews conducted with Peters just over a year before his death. Background on Peters' upbringing, including archival photos, is also of interest. He was raised in a German family of radical trade unionists who hosted famous members of the international progressive movement, including William Pickens, president of the NAACP. Pickens' autobiography was formative for the young Peters, who made it his life's work to give voice to peoples and societies written out of the history books. As a historian he embarked on a project of writing what he called a "true world history", rather than the European-centered histories that masqueraded as world history. According to Peters: "the base of my world history is fairness to all peoples". In pursuing this project he became aware of the distortions inherent in the Mercator maps of the world, where the sizes of the continents in the northern hemisphere are greatly exaggerated as compared to those in the southern. Given his commitment to fairness to all peoples, Peters wanted a map that accurately reflected landmass sizes. As Peters points out in the interview: "Mercator's map came along just as Europe was taking over the world. His map is a map of Eurocentrism, of imperialism, of colonialism. And this time is over."
The second half of the documentary deals with the response to the map-first published in 1974-both from left-wing organizations who championed it and from professional cartographers, who mostly disdained it. The reception is covered primarily in interviews with the various publishers of the map in the English-speaking world, including Terry Hardaker from Oxford Cartographers Office, Ward Kaiser, who published the first Peters map in the United States at the urging of a group of Christian mission workers, and Bob Abramms, current North American publisher of the map (and the publisher of this DVD). The map was embraced fairly quickly by groups interested in social justice, especially as it related to the developing world. The German Chancellor Willy Brandt used the map in the Brandt Report on North - South relations. Pope John Paul II hung a copy in the Vatican. Still, cartographers, especially in the Unites States, were indifferent if not outright hostile. Arthur Robinson, prominent American cartographer and creator of the Robinson projection, called Peters' map a "cleverly contrived, cunningly deceptive attack" against cartography. Perhaps due to this reception the map was more popular in Europe than in the United States. Exposure to U.S. audiences was greatly increased, however, when the map was featured on an episode of the prime time television hit "The West Wing" in . Clips of this appearance are included in the DVD.
The final part of the film contains an anecdote that shows that Peters remained an ideologue to the end. Kaiser, Abramms, and Dennis Wood showed Peters a copy of their book Seeing Through Maps (reviewed in NEMO Newsletter 62), which argues that many different projections are needed to accurately represent the world. Peters does not like the book, and maintains that his map is the one proper way to view the world. The documentary closes with a series of questions posed by the narrator about maps, projections, and representation, a good prelude to discussion about the film.
For people unfamiliar with the map and its creator the film provides a good introduction to Arno Peters. The most suitable audience would probably be high school or early undergraduates, although anyone with an interest in the subject is likely to get something out of it. The DVD comes with a large amount of supplemental material. This is somewhat of a mixed bag, but the persistent viewer will find some wheat among the chaff. There are outtakes from the film, including 3 additional clips of Peters. Five clips discuss the origins of the English translation of the Peters map, which was initiated by Christian missionaries. There is also a series of print resources on the map and related material from the film, as well as several PowerPoint presentations. While some of these will be useful to educators and students, the inclusion of some, like the finding aid for the William Pickens papers in the NYPL, is a bit baffling. Perhaps the most interesting of these extras is a photo-biography of Peters that includes many photos not seen in the film and the tidbit that Peters went to Hollywood in the 1920s to produce movies.
Review by Reed Lowrie, Science Reference and Cartographic Librarian, Cabot Science Library Harvard University. NEMO (North East Map Organization) is dedicated to serving as a unifying body for all who use, produce, collect, and market maps and cartographic information in the Northeast; increasing communication between all interested in maps; and working with state, regional, and national organizations and government agencies in dissemination of maps and cartographic information. NEMO's principal region is CT, DE, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, but also includes membership in CO, CA, IL, VA, and Ont, Qué, and Europe.
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