Can movies make the world a better place? Yes, they can! The folks at FilmAid International, a humanitarian organization that harnesses the power of film to help refugees the world over, has been doing just that: offering screenings of educational films and entertaining indies and documentaries to refugee camps, and empowering locals to make their own movies.
Last night, the organization hosted a benefit at the home of producer Tom Fontana ("Homicide: Life on the Street"), where actors, activists and film notables, including Liz Manne (FilmAid's exec director), producer Caroline Baron ("Capote"), Anjelica Huston, Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard, Fintage House CEO Robbert Aarts, and Bell Lightbox's Noah Cowan gathered together to honor and raise money for the group.
Founded during the Balkan crisis in 1999 by Baron after she learned about the problems facing hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees, FilmAid has worked in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other global aid organizations to bring film-based programs to people om Kenya (in camps on the borders of Somalia and South Sudan), in Haiti, and along the Thai-Burma border.
If you think Westerners sometimes need a break from our economic doldroms and quotidien concerns by going out to the movies, just think what it must be like for refugees, fleeing civil war or famine, stuck in remote camps in the middle of nowhere. Last year, together with the Sundance Initiative FilmForward, FilmAid showed films like Jennifer Arnold's "A Small Act" and Taika Waititi's "Boy."
As Liz Manne told the New York Times Magazine this past July. “In protracted purgatory situations, relentless hopelessness, trauma and boredom set in. They are stuck in no man’s land.... Movies transport us to other places, they take our troubles away, they make us laugh,” Manne explained. “The refugees who watch the movies are no different from any Western audience in that regard, except that their needs are different. You can’t compare a bad day at the office with famine, rape and civil war.”