FilmAid offers screen fun for families in need

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 December, 2014, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 December, 2014, 5:45pm

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It's a simple message that's conveyed through the powerful medium of film: "Projecting Hope. Changing lives". It is also the mantra of FilmAid, a global non-profit organisation that aims to give marginalised communities a voice while allowing them to build self-confidence and awareness.

Its reach is wide and includes Hong Kong, which is home to some of Asia's richest people, but also where a fifth of the population lives in poverty amid a widening income gap between rich and poor.

In an effort to improve the lives of the city's needy, the Hong Kong branch FilmAid Asia collaborated with ChickenSoup Foundation, a charity that helps underprivileged children and their families.

This collaboration provides entertainment experiences - such as movie screenings - for the needy, bringing psychological relief to a population whose development is seriously affected by their restrictive living conditions.

"Popular culture plays an enormous role in any child's life. Kids interact over shared interests - they quote their favourite movies or superheroes and are inspired by the role models they see on screen.

If children are deprived of these experiences, it can be isolating. FilmAid fills this gap," says FilmAid programme coordinator Katie Forster.

"If the entire household income of a Hong Kong family is just HK$6,000, then paying for a ticket to the cinema is way too expensive. It's a huge chunk out of a family's budget. Our films are free and we also have donors who supply snacks and drinks."

Forster says the programme has no fixed schedule. "Screenings are ongoing and we aim to reach all the centres in the coming months," she says.

"Our next one will take place on December 12 at the ChickenSoup Foundation's centre in Kowloon City. We will be screening Disney's Monsters, Inc."

Vice-chairwoman of FilmAid Asia, Magdalena Corso, says the screenings are inspiring. "Hearing the laughter, and gasps of awe from the kids during the screenings is truly heartwarming. All of us, regardless of our age or background, need an escape.

"What better way is there to do that than to be part of a communal experience, and to recount the storyline and favourite characters afterwards? It provides fuel for the imagination and creativity, and at its most basic level, it provides a respite from our daily worries and concerns. We all need that."

In September, FilmAid's global artist council member, British actor Jamie Campbell Bower, raised funds at the Power of Film Gala to support a programme with the ChickenSoup Foundation. He also spent time entertaining assisting with food distribution.

FilmAid was established by award-winning producer Caroline Baron after she saw first hand the issues that communities in crisis faced during the Balkan crisis in 1999.

As well as operating mobile cinemas that can reach a wide audience, FilmAid conducts training programmes to teach people production skills, while empowering them with a sense of achievement and confidence.

"It's such a simple idea that makes such an enormous difference," says Forster.