Global finalist for 2013 Intercultural Innovation Award

Today the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group announced FilmAid as one of only 10 global finalists for the 2013 Intercultural Innovation Award.

FilmAid has been selected as a finalist for its work in the field of film and media, bringing life-saving information, psychological relief and much-needed hope to refugees and other communities in need in Northern Kenya and around the globe. Representatives from FilmAid Kenya will present FilmAid’s work at the Viennese Volkstheatre on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013.

President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations and Mr. Bill McAndrews, Vice President, Corporate Communications Strategy, Corporate and Market Communications, BMW Group will chair the ceremony, in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. High-level representatives of the UNAOC and the BMW Group will give the award to the five top organizations.

Since 2011, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group have engaged in a historic partnership geared towards creating a new model for collaboration between the private sector and the UN system. To that end, the two organizations have established The Intercultural Innovation Award whose mandate is to select highly innovative grassroots projects that promote dialogue and intercultural understanding and make vital contributions to prosperity and peace in global societies.

FilmAid is honored and thankful to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and BMW Group for this fantastic opportunity! 

A Fantastic Evening! FilmAid's Annual Power of Film Benefit

Guests from the film industry and humanitarian community gathered on November 20 to show support for FilmAid’s efforts to harness the power of film to provide critical information where it is needed and inspire hope where it is lacking. FilmAid's Annual Power of Film Benefit took place at Lexicon night club in New York City.

Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm, Restrepo) was honored with FilmAid’s Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Award for Dedication to Humanitarian Service. He received the award for his career’s work, as an award-winning documentarian and best-selling author, recognizing the power of film as a cultural force and a window to new worlds and experiences. Said Junger, “FilmAid [puts] cameras into the hands of people who have grown up in very troubled countries, who are in some ways in the best position to document those troubles and inform the rest of the world about them. That is an unbelievably important task." 

The award was presented by author and human rights advocate Kati Marton, whose late husband Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke was an early supporter of FilmAid and namesake of the annual award.

FilmAid Founder Caroline Baron presented the FilmAid Community Leadership Award to Eline Media Founder and CEO Michael Angst for his many years of service as FilmAid’s Board Chair. FilmAid’s Executive Director Simon Goff was joined on stage by Rodriguez Shamamba, FilmAid alumni from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya who was recently resettled to Massachussetts. Griffin Dunne acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event, which included a Silent Auction.

FilmAid thanks its generous event sponsors including American Express, Robert and Tracy Baron, Condé Nast, The Culver Studios, Film Finances Inc., FilmNation Entertainment, HBO, The Hollywood Reporter, Nancy and Ron Proesel, Relativity Media, and Variety. 

See our complete photo album from the event on Facebook

FilmAid Asia's Mary Soan Wins Diva/Hugo Boss High Heeled Warrior Award

FilmAid's program director in Asia, Mary Soan, has won the Diva/Hugo Boss High Heeled Warrior Award for Community Service!

The High Heeled Warrior Awards aim to recognize and celebrate women living in Asia who have contributed and created a positive impact in their community. Mary is recognized for her work for FilmAid on the Thai/Burma border.

FilmAid's work in Asia began in 2009 with a highly successful pilot project in Thailand's Mae La refugee camp, one of nine camps located on the country's western border with Burma which hosts more than 150,000 refugees. Over the past four years Mary has overseen programming in the region, including the creation of multiple films, training and mentoring of refugees within FilmAid Asia's Film Production Programme, and the addition of a workshop space for training, auditions, rehearsals and shooting. 

You can read an interview with Mary about her influences and career on the High Heeled Warrior's website and watch a clip about Mary's work for FilmAid and what winning this award means to her below. Congratulations, Mary!

FilmAid to Honor Sebastian Junger at Annual Power of Film Benefit

FilmAid’s Annual Power of Film Benefit will be held on November 20 in New York City. We are excited to announce that we will honor Sebastian Junger with the Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Award for Dedication to Humanitarian Service.

Author of The Perfect Storm and WAR, Junger is one of America's most acclaimed writers. He is also a documentary filmmaker whose Restrepo, a feature-length documentary chronicling the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, was nominated for an Oscar.

Sebastian’s latest film, a documentary from HBO Films titled Which Way Is the Front Line from Here?, chronicles the life and career of frequent collaborator and close friend Tim Hetherington, who passed away in the war zones of Libya.

As a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and as a contributor to ABC News, he has covered major international news stories around the world, and has been awarded the National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for Journalism. He has also written for such magazines as Harper'sThe New York Times MagazineNational Geographic AdventureOutside and Men's Journal.

Presenting to Sebastian will be author and human rights advocate Kati Marton, whose late husband Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke was an early supporter of FilmAid and namesake of the annual award. Marton has been a great friend to FilmAid and we are delighted for her to join us.

Since 1980, Marton has published eight books. Her 2009 book, a Cold War memoir entitled Enemies of the People - My Family’s Journey to America, published by Simon & Schuster, was a National Book Critics Circle finalist and is soon to be the subject of a major motion picture. Her latest book, Paris – A Love Story, published in August 2012 by Simon & Schuster, is a memoir with Paris at its heart and like all stories of Paris, love as its theme.

Marton is on the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Rescue Committee, the New America Foundation, and Central European University. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, P.E.N. International and the Author’s Guild. In 2011 she was awarded the Leo Nevas Human Rights Award from the United Nations Association.

We’d love to see you on November 20! For tickets and more information, visit

Nansen Refugee Award winner brings knowledge and hope to displaced Somalis

This blog has been reposted from UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency

GALKAYO, Somalia, September 18 (UNHCR)  When Hawa Aden Mohamed was a young girl, her father made a decision that would change her life  and through her, transform the lives of thousands of Somali girls. He sent her to school.

Hawa Aden Mohamed went on to earn two university degrees before launching an ambitious programme to educate and empower Somali women and girls, many of them displaced by conflict or famine. Today, UNHCR announced that she has won the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award, which honours extraordinary service to those who flee war or persecution.

"Without education, you are unaware of so many things," Hawa Aden Mohamed said in a recent interview in the town of Galkayo, some 600 kilometres north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. "Without education, you do not exist much  physically yes, but mentally and emotionally, you do not exist."

Once a refugee herself, Hawa Aden Mohamed returned to her homeland in 1995 and discovered her calling. As co-founder of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD), she has helped restore hope and opportunity to local residents as well as those seeking refuge from the nation's long-running conflict and recurring droughts.

The centre offers free schooling to girls as well as literacy and awareness classes for women, tailoring courses, vocational training for boys, and food and other relief items to the displaced. Since it opened in 1999, the number of girls receiving education in the Mudug district has risen from 7 per cent to 40 per cent, the highest in the country, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

GECPD encourages women and girls to see themselves as full members of society who possess fundamental human rights. And it openly addresses the complex issues of female genital mutilation, puberty, early marriage, rape and HIV/AIDS.

Local residents were initially wary of Hawa Aden Mohamed's aims. "The mosques spoke of us, said we were devils … but we just kept quiet," she said. "It calmed down, when they saw how many, almost 250 women, were taking classes in adult education. We had built around 12 schools."

Won over by the centre's success, the people of Galkayo now call her Eedo (aunt) or Mama Hawa. "We always say there is hope, we should not lose our hope, our torch of life," she said. "We say this, but in reality it's very difficult, especially for women and children."

Born in the town of Baidoa in 1949, Mama Hawa lost a sister, Fatouma, who was circumcised around age seven and died soon afterwards from an infection. Their aunt, who organized the circumcision, did not know any better, she said. "The word 'why' was not there."

Mama Hawa continued her schooling in Mogadishu and then spent eight years in India, earning degrees in nutrition and child development. She returned home to work for Somalia's Ministry of Education, where she headed the department of women's education, and later opened a clothing business with one of her sisters.

When the military dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, she fled to Kismayo, Somalia's southern port city, and then to Kenya. She moved to Canada through a family reunification programme, but her heart was in Somalia.

Returning to her homeland in 1995, she set up a women's education centre in Kismayo. She fled a few years later when rival militia turned the town into a battleground. "I even came without my glasses," she recalled. "I left them behind, everything left behind."

She came back from exile a second time in 1999 and settled in Galkayo, as her husband was working at a nearby research institute.

In recent years GECPD has begun working with boys, too. It offers carpentry and welding classes as well as a recreational space to help keep young boys off the streets and prevent them from falling into the clutches of pirates or armed groups.

Amid a slight improvement in the political situation, Mama Hawa and her team are teaching girls about the new constitution, so that they will know their rights.

"Education never finishes," she said. "Every day you will see something new. Myself, I am not well educated. I cannot say everything. Education is always a continuous learning process. Education is everything."

By Clar Ni Chonghaile in Galkayo, Somalia

FilmFestival Awards

Dadaab Refugee Camp

Award for best feature film - Mohamedi Abdi Rage "Ibramina"

Award for best director- Mohamed Bashir Sheikh "Lacag"

Award for best actor/actress - Ahmed Shaffie "Ibramina"

Award for best camera work - Fu`ad Abdi Affey "Lacag"

Award for best script writer - Hussein Maalim "Lacag"

Award for most discipline student - Hasdi Adow

Award for most improved student - Farah Diss

Kakuma Refugee Camp

Award for best drama - Fredrick Akolom "love worthy suicide"

Award for best director - John Thomas "Larme"

Award for best cinematography  - Ebenyo William "The Edge"

Award for best actor/actress - Mugisha Akubaru (Moke) and Nyamuch Chuol (Asekon) "Larme'-Moke" and "Bitter tears-Asekon" respectively

Award for best supporting actor/actress - Peter Taban (Eddy), Alida Justine "Love online-Eddy"  and "Larme'-Esta" respectively

Award for best script/story - Majok Mabil "Ayang'"

Award for best documentary - Duc Mallard "Kakuma Can Dance"

International Entries

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Duration: 93 minutes
Drama | USA

Synopsis: Teeming with magic, beauty and pure joy, this crowd-pleasing winner at the Sundance Film Festival has emerged as one of the year’s most acclaimed films. Newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis delivers an “Oscar-worthy performance” (Philadelphia Daily News) as Hushpuppy, the tenacious six-year-old force of nature in an isolated bayou community. When her tough but loving father Wink (Dwight Henry) succumbs to a mysterious malady, the fierce and determined girl bravely sets out on a journey to save him. But Hushpuppy’s quest is hindered by a “busted” universe that melts the ice caps and unleashes an army of prehistoric beasts.

Rain is Beautiful (2012)
Director: Marc Silver & Nick Francis
Duration: 8 minutes
Documentary | Sweden

Synopsis: Omar, a Somali refugee, fled the war in Libya last year to live in a camp on the country’s border with Tunisia. This episode of his story, Rain is Beautiful, begins with emotional farewells at the camp as Omar leaves his friends behind to begin a new life in Sandviken in northern Sweden. He is met at Stockholm Airport by the Swedish Migration Board, visits a doctor, gets his “Right to Remain” signed and discovers margarine.

Finding Hillywood (2013)

Director: Leah Warshawski & Chris Towey
Duration: 58 minutes
Documentary | USA/Rwanda

Synopsis: Finding Hillywood is a unique and endearing film about the very beginning of Rwanda’s film industry, and the pioneers who bring trust, truth, and pride to their country through cinema. This film explores the power of film to heal a man and a nation.

Nickel City Smiler (2012)
Director: Scott Murchie & Brett Williams
Duration: 99 minutes
Documentary | USA

SynopsisNickel City Smiler chronicles a refugee’s fight for survival and hope in the American rustbelt. In Burma, Smiler Greely fought against the brutal military government, who attacked, tortured, raped and murdered thousands of the country’s ethnic minorities. After spending more than twenty years in the confinement of a refugee camp, Smiler and his family were selected for resettlement in the United States and assigned to live in Buffalo, New York.Nickel City Smiler documents the struggles Smiler’s family and the refugee community encounter on the streets of one of America’s poorest cities. Forced to fight against poverty, violence and bureaucracy, Smiler battles for the hope and hearts of his people.


A Testimony (2013)
Director: Marta Lefler
Duration: 10 minutes
Documentary | UK

Synopsis: The film is a testimony of a twenty-six year old female refugee from Afghanistan currently living in the UK. The interviewee talks about the important life events from childhood, child marriage, running away from her violent husband, to the horrific journey to the UK and her life worries now.


The Last Day (2013)
Director: Siddhartha Gigoo
Duration: 12 minutes
Drama | India

Synopsis: Set in 1994 in a camp for Kashmiri Pandit exiles, the film portrays four frayed lives in a scrawny 8 x 10 tent. Gossamer memories of a glorious past taunt their tawdry and uncertain present. An old patriarch is battling dementia on his deathbed. His wife has lost the will to live. His son and daughter-in-law struggle for personal space. Will they ever find deliverance? Will they rediscover love? Will tomorrow be any different from today or yesterday? The river has all the answers, yet flows, eternally silent.



Kerry Washington Accepts FilmAid Award from HFPA

This blog entry has been reposted from Variety. The original article was called "HFPA event offers grants, laugh" By Jon Weisman, Posted: Aug. 9, 2012, 3:24PM PT

It makes sense that folks would be in a fine mood when $1.2 million in grants are being handed out, and such was the case at the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s annual luncheon Thursday.

The event, which also featured the official installation of this year's board of directors and HFPA officers -- veep Jorge Camara, exec secretary Serge Rakhlin and treasurer Ali Sar -- was presided over by frequently bemused org prexy Aida Takla-O'Reilly.

"This is a memorable day for me," Takla-O'Reilly said. "This is the day that Steven Spielberg pulled my scarf out of the soup -- and wiped it for me."

Spielberg, who earlier praised Takla-O'Reilly's stand-up skills, was one of the event's first speakers, representing the preservation org Film Foundation, which received the highest of the HFPA's grants ($250,000).

"The films that we love (are) physically disappearing before our very eyes," Spielberg said, adding that this year's funding would support preservation of Federico Fellini's "La Strada." The HFPA has given $3.6 million to the Film Foundation in recent years, helping preserve more than 80 films. Among the other prime beneficiaries this year of the HFPA's donations were UCLA ($65,000), CalArts ($60,000) the Sundance Institute and FilmAid International ($50,000 each).

"FilmAid has literally become a live-saving relief tool," said actress Kerry Washington. ""FilmAid's video and movie screens deliver urgent information while also doing what we do with film -- inspiring laughter and connection."

The HFPA's other presenters included Jennifer Lawrence, John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Kelsey Grammer, Don Johnson, Jack Black, Christina Hendricks, Carla Gugino, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Ryan Guzman and Kathryn McCormick.

Black jokingly gave the impression that he had thought he would top the day in Hollywood celebrity, but then called himself "small potatoes" compared to Spielberg. "

Let me just say -- 'Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter' looks great," Black cracked.

Read the full article here.