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Cambodia / For A Child's Smile

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual Golden Globe Awards have enabled the non-profit organization to donate more than $15 million in the past nineteen years to entertainment-related charities, as well as funding scholarships and other programs for future film and television professionals. In 2013 the donations reached a record total of $1,567,650 in grants destined to 40 different entertainment-related non-profits, institutions and charities.

The donations, which were presented at the annual installation and grants luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in August,  are for a wide range of projects, including the preservation of films, higher education, training and mentoring and the promotion of cultural exchange through film.

The sum represents a $300,000 increase over last year because, as HFPA president Theo Kingma said: “We try every year to give as much as we can to these highly deserving organizations. It is gratifying to know that our efforts are appreciated and we are helping to further the cause of education and film preservation.” The Film Foundation received the largest amount—$350,000—for the preservation of historically important films while the Sundance Institute received $100,000.

Other recipients include FilmAid International, which is to receive $50,000 for screenings and filmmaker training in Kenyan refugee camps; American Cinematheque ($40,000), L.A.C.M.A ( $75,000) and UCLA ($90,000).

Smaller donations will go to theater groups, musicians and storytellers foundations, film archives and youth projects.

For the first time the association is also giving scholarship/fellowship endowments to a dozen organizations, ranging from $100,000 over five years to the American Film Institute, Columbia University, New York University and UCLA, to $10,000 over five years to Los Angeles City College.

Sometimes HFPA member take an active role in charitable initiatives; that is the case for Paz Mata (Spain) who travelled to Cambodia to help start a film school to which the HFPA contributed a $3000 grant this year. In our featured article she tells us how it happened.

FOR A CHILD’ SMILE: A FILM SCHOOL IN CAMBODIA.

Everything started one day in May 2010 after I came across an unbearable vision. On an immense ground of fuming rubbish and in the middle of swarms of flies, hundreds of children, from the age of five to fifteen, searched through the rubbish. Wearing rags, a large filthy bag on the back, bare-foot in the waste where they sank to their knees, they looked for bits of plastic, cardboard, or metal to recycle and sell in order to support themselves and their families. Most of these children were abused, mistreated, exploited and even abandoned by their own families. The dreadful images that I saw were taken by a friend of mine, who volunteers in a French non-profit organization in Cambodia, called Pour une sourire d’enfant (For a child’s smile). PSE supports marginalized and distressed children, in particular those of the dump and the poorest outskirts of Phnom Penh, by giving them food and care, education and solid professional training.

Two months later I decided to head to Cambodia with one mission in mind, to give these children an opportunity to share their stories with the rest of the world. Once I arrived there I encountered such extremes of experiences that I never knew possible. Life is harsh there, and children carry within them such deep and harrowing stories of suffering, torment and pain that it has brought me to my knees over and over. But what I quickly discovered is that within every child who has escaped death, diseases, sexual abuses and drugs, there is something that rises up and clutches onto life; it is the ultimate will and strength of the human spirit. I also learned that due to the 25 years of war during the terrible Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia, not only human rights but also religion and the arts suffered a heavy toll. The Khmer Rouge period not only killed all the moviemakers and actors; it also destroyed most of the existing movies. From 1980 to 1990, only a few cinema houses opened again, most of them playing Vietnamese movies and films from the former Soviet Union. Starting in 1991, an invasion of Thai and then Korean TV programs added to the foreign influx. Nowadays, Cambodia’s film industry, apart from some Khmer and Franco-Khmer movie directors, is limited only to karaoke video clips and “soap opera” shows, just a shadow of the formerly vibrant Khmer film culture.

I spoke with Christian des Palliéres, a retired computer engineer and big film aficionado, founder of PSE INSTITUTE, and suggested to create a film school within PSE. Christian was open and excited about my suggestion. Two months later, with the help of a small team of 8 young students from the PSE Institute, who showed a strong will of taking part in the rebirth of Khmer cinema and to make filmmaking their job for living, we started shooting short films. In October 2012, the PSE INSTITUTE opened a FILM SCHOOL. Since then, with the help of professional filmmakers like, directors Patric Leconte and Bertrand Tavernier, who came to Phnom Penh to help structure a three-year filmmaking program, the school has been able to advance the training of a whole production team. Also, the Cambodian branch of the UNHRC, agreed to finance one of three educational films that we have created to promote childrens’ human rights. These films cover such important issues as domestic violence, drug addition and sexual abuse, among others.

Since cinema’s ability to foster dialogue is at the core of the program, PSE Film School hopes that watching and making films will expand the youthful participants’ perspective on life and enable them to engage in dialogue with the rest of the world. Moreover, the school is creating business opportunities for the future filmmakers and technicians who will provide video and film services to the foreign production companies that come to shoot in this country.

“We put one foot in front of the other and we move forwards. And at each step, the vision broadens. “

Paz Mata
Journalist - TV Producer
HFPA Member
 

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