Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Early Days=Heady Days

First Meeting

I still remember the first meeting of the organizing committee for the film festival that took place in early Jan at the old offices of Tadamon. What a heady start it was! There were around 12-15 of us and we had to join two tables to accommodate all of us. Like the large group, we were also big on ideas. From a 10 day film festival, Angelina Jolie as the chief guest, getting the most expensive films to grace the festival to panel discussions with the filmmakers, screenings at more than one venue, the ideas flew fast and furious. After all, the proposed film festival was going to be the first of its kind in the region and the organizing members wanted to leave no idea untried, no avenue unexplored and no thought unvoiced!

The confidence levels and the enthusiasm was high from the very beginning and everything seemed possible and within grasp. It has definitely been this eagerness and the wide ranging expertise of the organizing committee that has carried us through.

Forming of Committees

A product of the times that we live in, our schedules are always crammed with a thousand things that we need to do. And it may not always be possible to match the schedules of all the organizers for meetings. This led to the division of the organizing members into Fundraising Committee and Films Committee to ensure better co-ordination and productivity.

Teething Problems


Big ideas require big money to execute. And so obtaining funding became our top priority. To get our ideas across to the potential funders, we needed a good proposal, which would serve as an effective medium to communicate our ideas. Our first attempt at proposal writing resulted in a very academic kind of commentary on the refugee situation in Cairo. Then Shubra who had experience in fund raising came to the rescue and suggested that we trim down our proposal according to certain criteria. Mai, Sankalita and Shubra, after much haggling over words. managed to get the first draft out which just required some tweaking. The group heaved a collective sigh of relief!

Chasing funders

Did I say a sigh of relief? the sigh could well qualify as one of the shortest! The economic downturn had not left many untouched and many of the organizations and funds that we approached were operating on reduced budgets and did not have money to spare. Further, not every fund wants to associate itself with refugee issues. When UNHCR told us “no”, it was one of the lowest moments for us as a team. However, our perseverance paid off and our first breakthrough came when UNICEF agreed to sponsor us. The most frustrating part was not receiving any kind of response from some of the people that we got in touch for funding the film festival. But despite repeated reminders, we sometimes never got any response. Even if the answer was negative, we just needed to know!

Selection of Films

We are organizing a film festival and it is imperative that we get the right films! The focus had to be on getting the right films, viewing them and finally making the right selection. Plus, we had budgetary constraints-the shipping costs and the getting the film screening rights would be a huge drain on our as-yet non existent resources.

Movies that Matter, a Netherlands based fund that believes in the power of the films “to promote the observance of human rights and social change” came to our rescue by suggesting films that could be used effectively to convey the message that we were aiming for. That gave us a good start as did a look at the films that had been screened at similar festivals elsewhere in the world like the Tokyo Film Festival. The CMRS library at the AUC was a good source of films and Sara became our “courier” for ferrying the films to and fro from the library to Tadamon. But the films committee and the fundraising committee had to go through many meetings and discussions before they would taste success!

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