FilmAid International is a non-profit humanitarian organization that uses film to educate and entertain displaced people around the world. FilmAid was founded during the Balkan crisis in 1999 by producer Caroline Baron (Capote, Monsoon Wedding) to assist with refugee communities in Macedonia suffering the effects of war, poverty, displacement and disaster. Since 1999, FilmAid has worked in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other global aid organizations to help bring information and training to more than two million people worldwide. FilmAid produces and distributes community-based films on public health and safety issues such as maternal health, HIV, cholera, gender-based violence and conflict resolution. Using inflatable screens and other ‘Mobile Cinema’ units, FilmAid screenings aims to overcome language and literacy boundaries. FilmAid currently works in Kenya, in the large refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma as well as informal settlements in Nairobi and Mombassa, with Burmese refugees in Thailand and also in Haiti. FilmAid is a global federation of nonprofit, charitable organizations. Members include FilmAid International (the founding organization), FilmAid Asia, FilmAid Kenya, and FilmAid U.K.
FilmAid uses film and other media to bring information to communities affected by disaster, displacement and economic disparity. FilmAid activities fall into the following categories:
- Mobile Cinema: Giant screens attached to the side of trucks, inflatable screens or simply a television set up under a tree, FilmAid’s Mobile Cinemas aim to bring education and entertainment.
- Making Media: FilmAid works alongside communities, helping to provide skills and resources to create media produced by the community, for the community. FilmAid produces films, radio, community newspapers and other media.
- Teaching Skills: FilmAid aims to give individuals the creative and technical skills necessary to explore the concerns of their own communities and to help express themselves creatively. These programs are designed to alleviate psychological problems associated with trauma, isolation, idleness and despair.
- 1999 - FilmAid is founded by film producer Caroline Baron. Six weeks later, FilmAid, begins working with an eight-week screening program in Macedonian refugee camps during the Balkan Crisis. This included screening photos of missing children and landmine awareness films, as well as Charlie Chaplin shorts and films like ET and Mrs. Doubtfire.
- 2000 - Guinea: UNHCR invites FilmAid to begin work in camps harboring refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia. Renewed fighting in Sierra Leone prevents progress and UNHCR requests that FilmAid diverts to East Africa to start programs in the refugee camps there.
- 2001 - Kenya: FilmAid begins an ongoing screening and filmmaker training program in Kakuma refugee camp, near the border of what is now South Sudan. Kakuma is administered by UNHCR and hosts refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Uganda. FilmAid’s work in Kenya continued from there under the aegis of Church World Service, until receiving independent INGO (International Non-Governmental Organization) status in 2010.
Tanzania: FilmAid begins its screening and filmmaker training program in the Kibondo refugee camps for Burundian refugees, managed by UNHCR and the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs. Work there continues until the closure of the camps in 2008.
- 2002 - Afghanistan: FilmAid brings screenings of The Wizard of Oz and Children of Heaven to street children in Kabul, giving many of them their first ever experience of film, and also of music, both of which had been banned under Taliban rule.
- 2004 - Kenya: FilmAid undertakes its first project in the Dadaab refugee camps, near the border of Somalia, making a film about HIV/AIDS transmission, in collaboration with the World Food Program. Dadaab is administered by CARE for the UNHCR and hosts Somali refugees as well as a minority of others from Sudan, Ethiopia and Burundi. It is the largest refugee settlement in the world.
- 2005 - USA: In 2005 and 2006 FilmAid works in Louisiana with people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, presenting screenings of New Orleans music film Make It Funky! in Baton Rouge and the Groom Road FEMA community, as well as helping start an animation project for young people affected by the hurricanes.
- 2006 - Kenya: FilmAid begins its ongoing screening program in the Dadaab refugee camps. In Kakuma, the first FilmAid Film Festival is held.
- 2008 - Kenya: FilmAid begins its ongoing filmmaker training program in the Dadaab refugee camps, as well as co-presenting a ‘Film Night’ in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum: an evening of screenings of locally made films to over a thousand people. Uganda: FilmAid co-presents a screening of War Dance to the Patongo IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in war-torn northern Uganda. War dance is a documentary that was made in northern Uganda.
- 2009 - Thailand: FilmAid starts its ongoing screening and filmmaker training program in Mae La refugee camp, near the Thai-Burma border.
- 2010 - Haiti: FilmAid begins its screening and filmmaker training programs in camps for internally displaced persons following the earthquake, principally in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. This continued into 2011 and included live screenings of the Soccer World Cup to over 40,000 people. Kenya: FilmAid shoots its first feature-length film, Sita Kimya, in Kibera, as part of a joint campaign with other organizations working there to raise awareness of gender-based violence and the laws regarding gender-based violence in Kenya. Thailand: FilmAid extends screenings to five other camps on the Thai-Burma border.
- 2011 - Kenya: FilmAid partners with IOM to produce a serialized radio drama on safe migration, resource conflict and human trafficking which is broadcast in three languages to more than half a million listeners in remote regions of Kenya. FilmAid also begins a public screening program of Sita Kimya in Kibera and then expanding to Mathare, and later in Mombassa.
- 2012 - Kenya: In partnership with UNHCR, FilmAid pilots an SMS alert system in Dadaab and Kakuma capable of instantly disseminating critical information to refugees via mobile phone.