Mobile cinema

FilmAid at Fifteen

Fifteen years ago, as I lay in bed, listening to morning radio, my heart ached from the tales of children languishing in refugee camps. I had been following the plight of the Kosovar refugees for months: each image and story intensifying my desire to do something, anything.  

The radio report detailed the emotional trauma, boredom, uncertainty, and the high toll that war extracts from innocent, displaced peoples – especially women and children. Key necessities, like food, medicine, and shelter were being delivered by aid agencies; but people were still left in a state of fear and hopelessness. As a professional filmmaker, I wondered if movies could provide some psychological relief, and with that thought, a door to the complex world of humanitarian aid cracked open, I stepped through and FilmAid was born.

The original idea was to hold outdoor screenings to feed the imagination and the soul while providing life-saving messages on the big screen. I assembled a crew of committed volunteers and a stash of films. Six weeks later, I was on my way to Macedonia, armed with what would become FilmAid’s first Mobile Cinema - a generator, projectors, and screens loaded into the back of a truck. FilmAid's experience in Macedonia and Kosovo successfully proved the power of the big screen: films restore hope and provide education and inspiration.

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Over the years, FilmAid has brought the power of film to millions of refugees and displaced persons, in environments as diverse as Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, Nairobi slums, New Orleans, the Thailand-Myanmar border, Afghanistan, Haiti and most recently Jordan.  Our programs now include participatory filmmaking, skills training, facilitated video workshops, mass awareness campaigns, and mentoring to help refugees achieve their dreams.

Despite FilmAid’s successes, sadly, we all still wake up to stories of people fleeing their homes. They are driven from safety and comfort by human cruelty or natural disasters. Civil wars, conflict and genocide leave millions homeless around the world. Three years into Syria’s civil war over 9 million people have been forced to flee their homes. The ongoing turmoil in South Sudan continues to displace people into neighboring countries. The global refugee situation is becoming more urgent than ever before. We need your help to continue and expand our work.

Fifteen years ago, a radio report caused me to get up and start this journey. Please support us by donating nowYour generosity will help us educate, empower and inspire refugees displaced by conflict and natural disaster from South Sudan to Syria and Thailand to Colombia. Let me paraphrase philosopher Bertrand Russell when he described his three simple passions: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the compassion for the suffering of mankind. These continue to drive me and so many others to do what we can to ease the pain of others. FilmAid embodies this universal human spirit and is deeply committed to projecting hope and giving voice to those whose voices are rarely heard.

Thank you for your continued support. We couldn’t do this work without you!

Caroline Baron,
Founder, FilmAid International

 

Stand #WithSyria on Third Anniversary of Conflict

As balloons surround the little boy and whisk him away across the skyline, the enraptured audience of young Syrian children breaks into cheers and applause.  And so ends the FilmAid screening of the Palm d'Or-winning film, Le Ballon Rouge ("The Red Balloon") bringing much needed joy to children displaced by the ongoing tragedy in Syria nearly 60 years after its production.

I am writing to you from Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan on the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria.  A conflict that has seen nearly half the country's population forced to flee from their homes and that has claimed over 100,000 lives.  Today, FilmAid joined a global coalition of over 100 NGOs and charities that are coming together to mark this anniversary with a call for solidarity and hope.

Candle-lit vigils and the release of red balloons, inspired by street artist Banksy's reworking of his iconic "girl with a red balloon" image are taking place around the world, from Trafalgar Square in London, to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Moscow and Paris. Close to Syria’s border, in Za'atari refugee camp, children displaced by the conflict also participated in the #WithSyria campaign by releasing balloons and watching the film.

As you can imagine, it was an incredibly moving event and I'm very proud that FilmAid could be involved. This was our first activity in support of Syrian refugees, however, I hope it is not the last. Over the coming weeks and months we will be looking at how we can provide information and empowerment to the millions that have been displaced by the ongoing conflict.

Please support FilmAid as we stand #WithSyria at this crucial moment. Post on Facebook or Tweet a message of support. Visit WithSyria.com to learn more.

I'd like to thank Films Distribution for their help to make the screening possible as well as the other coalition partners, including Save the Children, Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Arab Network for NGO Development and the Permanent Peace Movement.

-- Simon Goff, Executive Director

Emmanuel Jal takes Peace Campaign to Kakuma

Emmanuel Jal visited Kakuma Refugee Camp in partnership with FilmAid International on September 28, during his international We Want Peace Tour. Former Sudan war child and refugee, now hip-hop star and activist, Emmanuel’s visit held special resonance for the international star and his audience. In Kakuma, Jal recorded “Yei,” a song about overcoming struggles and getting through the difficult situations.  Created by Silverstone and Jal, the performance featured talented refugee music artists from Kakuma and will be launched internationally with FilmAid International in November. Jal also recorded a music video of one of his hit singles in the beautiful scenery of Kakuma with the help of FilmAid’s student filmmakers. “I am extremely amazed by the great talent in the camp ranging from filmmaking and singing to dancing, and I loved being able to collaborate with them and inspire them through my own experiences,” said Jal.

As part of his We Want Peace Tour, the soft-spoken peace ambassador had an opportunity to speak with the South Sudanese communities at the camp, promoting peace and the importance of entrepreneurism, which he feels is lacking among young people in the community. Jal also engaged the elders in a panel discussion on ways to finding lasting peace in Sudan and the possibility of repatriation for the Sudanese community in Kakuma. As an advocate of women’s rights, Jal pledged funds to the education of women and girls in the Sudan.

On Saturday September 28, Emmanuel Jal and traditional and contemporary dance groups and musical artists treated audiences of many different nationalities in Kakuma to electric performances. The crowds stood through the entire performance, enjoying hit after hit from Jal singing alongside his sister, Nyaruach and his other backup singer Nyamal. Nyaruach and Nyamal traveled from Dadaab refugee camp to be a part of the concert.

As a witness to the atrocities of Sudan’s second civil war and having been a child soldier himself, Emmanuel now uses music to tell his story and advocate for peace. The We Want Peace campaign aims to “raise awareness on the fundamental principles of justice, equality, unification and conflict prevention.” Following his time in Kakuma, Jal took the We Want Peace Tour to Johannesburg, where he performed and spoke at the One Young World Summit in alongside Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, Yunes Mohamed and Bob Geldof. Later this month he will travel to Zambia for a community and school tour in Lusaka.

At FilmAid we are often fortunate to meet individuals who have incredible and unbelievable stories. Occasionally we get to work with someone who has truly seen the darkest parts of humanity only to emerge empowered and motivated to advocate for social justice and human rights. These inspiring individuals are everywhere and all deserve to have their stories told and their voices heard. We are glad to support Emmanuel Jal’s We Want Peace Tour in Kenya. 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences supports FilmAid’s refugee ‘Mobile Cinema’ screening series

July 3, 2012- 

FilmAid is pleased to announce the support of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their ‘Mobile Cinema’ screening series in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya.   

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are dedicated to the advancement of arts and sciences in motion pictures.

With giant screens attached to the side of trucks, or a television set up under a tree, FilmAid’s ‘Mobile Cinema’ brings the power of film to the people who need it most.

The grant will be used to support and expand FilmAid’s core work that uses mobile cinema to provide joy, laughter, relief and life‐saving information to a combined population of over 550,000 refugees.

‘We are delighted to have the generous support of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,’ said Liz Manne, Executive Director of FilmAid, ‘through this grant, we can offer access to those who lack traditional media and information sources’.

FilmAid uses the power of film and media to transcend language and literacy, bringing life-saving information, psychological relief and much-needed hope to refugees and other communities in need around the globe. 

For further information on The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -www.oscars.org 

FilmAid Brings 2010 World Cup to Haiti

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The Haitian Government, with the support of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINIUSTAH), in partnership with FilmAid International, Nocturne Productions, Tait Towers, Telemobile, Digicel, and PSI-Haiti, is bringing live broadcasts of the World Cup Games to Haiti for five weeks starting on Friday, June 11th. FilmAid will temporarily install large LED screens into the Stadium Silvio Cator, the national stadium in Port-au Prince in order to show the tournaments games live, in real-time, during the morning and afternoons, an unprecedented event in Haiti.

Throughout the duration of the games partner organisations will also screen public service announcements, feature films, music videos, and childrens' movies/cartoons along with live concerts featuring Haitian artists. Additionally, MINUSTAH will be coordinating with local soccer teams to hold informal matches in the stadium and neighboring areas. 

Films, sports, music and art transcend politics and can help heal the most damaged communities. Bringing the live broadcast of the World Cup to Port au Prince brings Haitians together and unites them with the rest of the world, while also reminding the world that Haiti still desperately needs its help and support. 

FilmAid in Afghanistan

One hundred Afghan children squeeze themselves inside a small classroom outside Kabul; the lights dim, and a twister in Kansas fills the screen. It’s The Wizard of Oz and for these children, ages 6 to 14, it is the first film they’ve ever seen. Before the screening, their teacher, a spirited woman in a red head shawl, has patiently explained the whole Oz story to them, so they’re able to follow the plot. Although the film is in English, the kids are utterly transfixed; their mouths hang open and they gasp with palpable shock when the film blooms from black and white into color. Out of respect for the local sense of propriety, a screening committee deemed the munchkins in frilly pink tutus inappropriate, and they were correspondingly fast-forwarded.


Not only have these children never seen movies, they have neither TV nor radio. Under the Taliban decree, they were never allowed even to see a photo of a woman---or a man pictured from the head down. All song and dance were outlawed. When Caroline Baron, FilmAid founder, asks the children to sing a song for her, she is met with blank stares. The children don’t know any songs. 

In late February 2002, three FilmAid volunteers flew to Kabul to see if they could set up a program for people in Afghan camps (called the “internally displaced”). Caroline Baron was accompanied by Michael Mailer, also a film producer, and Ed Beason, a logistician/filmmaker. Helping them on the ground in Kabul was Peter Bussian, information officer for the IRC, the New York-based group under whose auspices FilmAid has been working. They had much to accomplish: to meet with NGOs who might be interested in becoming local partners with FilmAid, to assess whether movies could be safely shown in a devoutly Muslim country that had been at war for almost 25 years, to do test screenings with children in Kabul, and to check out the local infrastructure---including the size of the potholes in roads that FilmAid trucks would need to drive. Movie screens bolted atop flatbed trucks are FilmAid’s novel solution to showing pictures in refugee camps---mainly outdoors, under the stars. 

Ensuring the safety of moviegoers was harder to assess. In Kabul, peacekeepers are everywhere, and although the city appears in parts to be one big bomb crater, it generally feels safe. Even miles outside the city, Baron, Mailer and Beason stumbled upon some British special forces hiding in the turrets of an abandoned palace. They revealed themselves shortly after a shattering earthquake, measuring 7.2 on the richter scale, shook the countryside. The soldiers leaned out from their tower and yelled down to Baron, asking her if she knew anything about earthquakes and what did she think---should they climb down from their turret? “I told them, yes, in my experience, there are usually aftershocks,” said Baron, and the English special forces took her advice. 

Haplessness about earthquakes aside, foreign peacekeepers appear to make Kabul a fairly secure place for FilmAid. And despite years of a Taliban prohibition on the arts, movies now seem to face no opposition. “Obviously we still need to take precautions to ensure the safety of our audiences,” says Baron, “but my initial fear thankfully seems to have been unfounded.”

What did become startlingly clear, was how much the Afghans wanted—and even needed—a program like FilmAid. 


As the kids spill out of a white minivan, they seem to be performing a magic trick: is it possible that the little van could contain so many children? There are three dozen, at least, or maybe four! They are arriving, along with nearly 400 other children for an afternoon FilmAid screening in an abandoned concrete barn. The kids overflow into old cow stalls—the floors covered with fabric. When Baron asks them what sort of movie they expect, few have seen any—and only one boy speaks up: “I want a fighting movie!” Instead of a Hollywood action flick, however, FilmAid screens Children of Heaven, an Iranian film about a little boy who shares his shoes with his sister because she has lost her own. Filmed in Farsi, the language is very close to the Afghan dialect, Dari, and the children have no problem understanding.Showing pictures from other cultures fulfills one of FilmAid’s goals: to chip away at the often-fatal misunderstanding between peoples. 

Breaking down barriers for women and girls is especially important in Afghanistan. Before the Oz screening, a group of schoolgirls talked shyly about the upcoming movie, and then it became apparent that they never actually expected to be invited to watch the film---that was for boys. Baron was delighted to tell the girls that, not only would they, of course, be included, but also that the film was a story about a little girl.

by Nina Teicholz, FilmAid volunteer June 12, 2002