Conversations can save the world: Films Without Borders

Conversations really can change the world…

It’s a well-worn cliché that conversations can change the world. Not on their own of course, but communications provoke thoughts. Thoughts to actions. Actions that alter our reality, or the reality of those all across the world.

Films Without Borders, created by Sarah Close of Brighton in 2015, was a phone conversation that snowballed. Talking to her friend Jonathon, a photographer volunteering on the island of Leros in Greece helping refugees, conversations turned to the requirements of the refugees. Beyond the basic human requirements of warmth, shelter and food, there was a very real need for entertainment and Jonathon asked for an LED film projector.

His request was based on his experience of witnessing thousands of children, held within detention style camps. The majority of children there are suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, alongside multiple and complex injuries. Some are dealing with the loss or separation of their parents and families, whilst coming to terms with leaving their homes under horrific circumstances.

As Jonathon explained, “It is a frightening and uncomfortable situation for all of them.”

He had built a good relationship with a local café that was happy to open in the evenings and allow children to have a drink and take shelter from the incoming autumnal weather. Therefore the purpose of a projector was to show some familiar cartoons and films from home to provide some respite and temporary relief.

Sarah posted a request on Facebook asking if anyone had an LED projector they could provide, and upon waking the post had gone viral. This lead to Films Without Borders being formed.

Although the group and fundraiser are in their infancy, working partnerships are being formed to send projectors to refugee camps. For example, Films Without Borders are currently working with Heart ETL who are setting up a school in a large refugee camp in Iraq. The original concept of providing a projector for film purposes has been expanded to include use for educational means.

Happily, Sarah agreed to talk to Art In Brighton about the project.

Do you have any background in fundraising or charity work from before?

Sarah: Yes, but not on a large scale. I've always been interested in helping others. Prior to becoming involved in this I collected items for Rise (local domestic abuse charity) food bank. I have aso donated to charities and helped at charitable events in the past.

Why are you doing Films Without Borders?

Sarah: Our planet is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis ever in history. I believe it is our duty as fellow human beings to reach out and help those less fortunate than use.

Do you think we should be taking more refugees? Has this changed with the recent events in Paris, Beirut etc?

Sarah: I have always been interested in politics and actively engage in political debate. The politics surrounding this situation are too complicated to go into here!

Yes, we should be taking in more refugees, not just because international law says we should, but because it is our moral duty. Our government response is wholly unsatisfactory. Thankfully Brighton has 'City of Sanctuary' status and our city actively welcomes refugees.

The events of last Friday are sadly fuelling the close the borders debates. We have to remember that there are currently around 60 million refugees on this planet. The actions of a handful of extremists does not reflect the faith and religions of millions of displaced people.

The surge in bombing Syria since last Friday will not defeat Isis. What this will do, and is doing, is creating more and more refugees.

What can art do to combat the effects of war?

Sarah: Art helps to portray messages, understanding and reality. Art can be used as tool of education and expression to convey a message to its audience.

Finally, from your point of view, is there anything which people can do from their end in Brighton?

Sarah: In Brighton there are many projects people can become involved:

Brighton Voices in Exile need people to house refugee families and provide items for their food bank. The Hummingbird Project always need extra volunteers to help their projects in Calais (a major fire spread through the camp on Friday - they are currently looking for builders in Brighton to help them make flat pack homes to take over to Calais). Lobby your MP, lobby parliament, donate to causes supporting the crisis, gather items required to be sent to refugee camps, volunteer for help The School Bus Project, put on a fundraiser, help admin a social media page...the list goes on!

You can find links to all of the projects mentioned via the websites below: