Films give a helping hand to refugees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am


Films can be more than entertainment, at least for FilmAid which now has a branch in Hong Kong that aims to brighten up refugees' lives by showing them movies and teaching them filmmaking skills.

The organisation was first established in 1999 amid the Balkan crisis, where hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. It shows educational documentaries to provide information on health, travel safety and regional conflicts. The films may also provide psychological relief for refugees, says Tony Steains, chairman of FilmAid's board of directors.

'The power of film and video lies in its ability to convey complex ideas through the combination of image and sound, and to reach many people at once,' he said.

'Screening films allows FilmAid to disseminate information in multiple camps in multiple venues throughout the region, reaching thousands of people at a time.'

The Hong Kong team concentrated on the Mae La refugee camp, where 150,000 people resided along Thailand's western border with Mynamar. It co-operated with the Thailand Burma Border Consortium to make a film on how to grow vegetables in challenging conditions to help the refugees.

It also ran a workshop to teach filmmaking skills to younger members in the camp.

Steains said FilmAid chose to be based in Hong Kong because Hongkongers were known to be charitable and its board members - professionals in the film, financial and media sector - were based in the city.

'Hong Kong has a healthy and robust reputation as a city that is very generous in assisting charitable organisations,' he said. 'Given the broad reach of the board members throughout Asia and ability to raise funds in Hong Kong, it made sense to base our headquarters here.'

The group does not have a project to help the city's refugees at the moment, but would study their needs.