18 November 1955 |
|Education||Cathedral and John Connon School
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (Carleton University)
Stanford University Business School
Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University).
|Occupation||television producer, animation producer, film producer, social entrepreneur, author|
|Notable work(s)||The Three Amigos
Buzz and Bite
No Thanks, We're Fine
A Child Without A Country
Nan and Lili
Honk, Toot and Swo-swoosh
PanAsia: Journeys on Asian Cuisine
City Of The Rich
Such A Long Journey
Love Come Down
Firdaus Kharas (Fir-dose Kha-RASS) is a social entrepreneur and media producer who uses video and animation to better the human condition around the world. He founded Chocolate Moose Media in 1995 to produce for-profit and not-for-profit content for film and television aimed at progressive behaviour change. He was born November 18, 1955 in Calcutta, India, and is now Canadian.
His TV series and documentaries have focussed on health issues, children’s programming, human rights, dementia and refugees. He has won 70 international awards, including the Trailblazer Award, mainly for three public-service announcement campaigns (PSA): The Three Amigos Campaign, targeting the spread of HIV/AIDS; Buzz and Bite, focussing on protection against malaria; and No Excuses, combatting domestic violence. In 2006 The Three Amigos was given the Peabody Award. Prior to his media career Kharas worked in the Canadian public service dealing with immigration and refugee policy and on United Nations affairs. He has travelled to 140 countries and frequently speaks at international conferences, trains animators and sits on media festival juries.
Early Life and Education
Kharas was born into a middle-class Parsi family during Calcutta’s most turbulent period of social upheaval, which would influence his entire life. His father was a mechanical engineer and his mother a British-trained lawyer. First introduced to progressive causes by his mother, who volunteered for an NGO, he was taught the realities of disenfranchised people and at age eight was taken to Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying. At the time he also started writing plays and acting in high school productions first at La Martiniere School For Boys in Calcutta and then at the Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay. After graduation he was the first recipient of the Rotary Club of Bombay’s international exchange-student scholarship. With it he attended an honors year at Commodore Perry High School in Hadley, Pennsylvania. Kharas then studied political science as an undergraduate at Thiel College, Pennsylvania (BA, 1978). In his final year he won the National Model United Nations debate.
In 1978 Dr. John Sigler offered him a full scholarship to complete a master’s degree at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (MA, 1980) in Ottawa. His thesis was on human rights and human security and he wrote a draft international Convention Against Torture. Since graduation he has continued his studies: in marketing and law at the University of Ottawa; in senior management at Harvard University’s J.F. Kennedy School of Government; and in social innovation at Stanford University’s Centre for Social Innovation. He also has an honorary L.H.D. from Thiel College and is an Honorary Fellow at the American Intercontinental University (London).
After university, Kharas authored two books: Togo, an investment analysis of business and political risk in the West African country, and How To Immigrate To Canada.
Kharas was the executive director of the United Nations Association in Canada from 1982 until 1987. Within that capacity he was the secretary of the jury for the Peace Medal and was awarded a United Nations Peace Medal by Javier Perez de Cuellar, the U.N. Secretary General, during a state visit to Canada in 1985. He then focussed on refugees by serving as policy adviser to Barbara McDougall, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Immigration, before being appointed Assistant Deputy Chairman of the Immigration and Refugee Board, where his mandate was the help clear up the backlog of more than 100,000 refugee claimants from 115 countries. In 1995 his desire to impact social problems drew him into the private sector, into media.
Chocolate Moose Media was founded that year in Canada but set up its first production facilities in Singapore and Malaysia to train locals and produce animated and dramatic television series. With the Malaysian Royal Family (Jaafar of Negeri Sembilan) as partner, Kharas created City of the Rich, Asia’s first English-language daily soap opera that ran for 200 one-hour episodes. He then focussed on cultural content with the 300-episode animated series Nan and Lili (2008) - the only Arabic language animated series for pre-schoolers - and Magic Cellar (2006) - the first series about African culture for children, which won 29 international-festival awards and was bought by HBO. His programs have appeared on the Disney Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet and Nickelodeon, among many others.
He produced spots for UNICEF’s Cartoons for Children’s Rights and then for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. In 2004 Kharas worked with South African film maker Brent Quinn to produce and direct The Three Amigos Campaign, a series of animated PSAs to educate people about the use of condoms to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. The series was officially launched in 2005 in six languages and has since been translated into 45 languages that can reach 5.5 billion people in 150 countries. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an advocate and the series won the 2006 George Foster Peabody Award. In 2008 Kharas launched a second series of PSAs called Buzz and Bite using animated mosquitos to teach viewers about ways to protect themselves from the transmission of malaria. A third series called No Excuses was launched in 2011, also using animated characters to prevent domestic violence by questioning its cultural justifications. All three campaigns were launched at the United Nations and are the central focus for the Culture Shift website. A feature story in the Atlantic magazine brought all these issues together in one place.
He has produced six documentary films, including A Child Without a Country: Pedro about Canada’s refugee system and No Thanks, We’re Fine about caregivers to people with dementia. He is currently working on a campaign to help those without electricity change from poisonous kerosene lamps to solar power in The Solar Campaign. Kharas is also the subject of a documentary film called Firdaus Kharas: The Animated Activist.
In response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, Kharas worked with an international team to produce A Poem For The Living an animated video dealing with prevention of the disease.
As a speaker, Kharas has appeared at events like Yale University’s Unite For Sight (2014) and advised graduating students during commencement speeches. He has sat on television juries for the likes of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awards as well as presiding over juries for such festivals as the Cairo International Film Festival for Children.
- 66th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2007.
- Pitching Rubbers. "The New Yorker".
- Tutu, Desmond. "In Support of The Three Amigos".
- Peabody Awards. "2006 winners".
- Jaffer, Mobina. "Canadian Senate".
- United Nations. "Press Briefing". Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- United Nations. "Press Briefing".
- United Nations. "Press Briefing".