Film premiere raises over $100,000 for UNHCR
NEW YORK, October 22 (UNHCR) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie were among the many dignitaries and celebrities who attended a film premiere on Monday that raised more than $100,000 for the UN refugee agency.
Over 1,000 guests, including Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Under-Secretary-General Catherine Bertini, several UN Ambassadors and actors, filled New York's Ziegfield Theatre on Monday evening for the screening of "Beyond Borders". The event was organised by Paramount and Mandalay Pictures to benefit the UN refugee agency.
Secretary-General Annan introduced the film by pointing out, "Sometimes real life is stranger and more moving than fiction ... the reality [humanitarian workers] face is far harsher than what we can appreciate from our comfortable seats in a well-appointed theatre." He reminded the audience that most real-life humanitarian workers enjoy "no recognition, no medals, no parades, but toil tirelessly in distant places. Tonight we will hear and see the stories of colleagues from the UN and NGO family."
"Beyond Borders", which stars UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Jolie, is a love story intertwining the lives of two aid workers through humanitarian operations in Ethiopia in 1984, Cambodia in 1989, and Chechnya in 1995.
Although the film is set in the late 1980s to early 1990s, it highlights the continuing plight of refugees and brings up a number of relevant and timely topics for today's refugee and asylum discussions. Two key issues raised are the difficulty in securing funds for protracted refugee operations - such as the one portrayed in Ethiopia - and the perilous and sensitive nature of humanitarian work in the face of modern wars.
UNHCR's Lubbers said of the Goodwill Ambassador, "By visiting refugees in the field and reporting about them and their plight, Angelina Jolie makes it clear that refugees do matter. She complements the work of UNHCR, whose mandate is to take care of refugees."
Jolie was joined by the director and co-stars of "Beyond Borders" in meeting guests and donors at the dinner event. Attendees received copies of a book on the film's screenplay and Jolie's soon-to-be-released book, "Notes From My Travels". The latter is a collection of her journals from her field visits with UNHCR and her portion of all profits from the publication's sales will be donated to the refugee agency.
Meanwhile, USA for UNHCR raised over $100,000 in donations and ticket sales for the "Beyond Borders" premiere and a dinner event, which followed at New York's popular restaurant, Cipriani's. The event's biggest corporate donors were Bristol-Myers Squibb and MBNA America. Merck & Co., Inc., Nestlé S.A., the Virtue Foundation and Weber Shandwick Worldwide also contributed generously to the event, while USA for UNHCR board members Jack Leslie and Ambassador Molly Raiser were among the private donors.
The film was received favourably by the New York audience. One guest said, "I would hear the words 'aid worker' on CNN during every crisis and yet, I never quite understood exactly what humanitarian workers did. This film helped me better understand what groups like UNHCR do and truly appreciate how difficult their jobs are."
She added, "Being someone who has lived in New York for most of my life, that is about the closest I will get to seeing a refugee camp and while I know it was a movie, it truly moved me."
Other awareness-raising events surrounding the film included a preview and reception in Washington D.C. last Thursday hosted by senators Ted Kennedy and William Frist with the participation of the Bi-partisan Refugee Caucus. A separate screening, dinner and panel discussion was also organised in the capital last Wednesday by UNHCR, the Brookings Institute and Refugees International.
Meanwhile, the Goodwill Ambassador also joined government and NGO representatives, celebrities and refugees at a special preview of "Beyond Borders" in the Spanish capital of Madrid last week.