Monday, April 14, 2008

The Power of Film

If ever James and I could be accused of being fabulous by association it was last week when our h-o-t friend Steve Mendelsohn, executive director Film Aid, invited us to his organization's annual gala at Capitale here in New York.

While we were unabashedly cheering for our friend Steve as he presided over the evening's festivities, we had to be a bit more demure while standing a few feet away from Christy Turlington and Danny Glover.

I did, however, allow myself to be a groupie and approached Valentino Achak Deng, the subject of Dave Eggers' acclaimed novel, What is the What?

Valentino was being honored that evening along with Danny Glover and other figures for their work in promoting the plight of refugees around the world.

Star-gazing and champagne aside, the evening was marked by moving images of life in refugee camps, where most people spend up to 18 years waiting to be resettled elsewhere or are allowed to return home.

Reading about the experiences of Achak Deng that week for my club, and then getting to meet him and chat briefly about his experiences, was unreal. I wanted to take a picture with him, but I thought that was explotitative. I didn't want to be all "You trekked through the jungle in absolute darkness and survived repeated attempts on your life, can I please have a picture with you for my Facebook page?"

And while I did capture some shots of Achack Deng, and other luminaries, to have asked for a photo with him wouldn't have been contrary, I think, to Film Aid's mission. In addition to bringing films to refugee camps, which is really bringing a few hours of hope and escape to the lives of the displaced, the organization is also leading a project that allows refugees to chronicle their lives on video and share these stories with the world.

Which is a great idea; after all, if you don't see and hear these people's stories, how will you ever get past the faceless throngs on the evening news and actually do something to help?

We can't all head up a non-profit and round up celebs, but we can certainly do with one less cosmo or weekend in St. Bart's - depending on how fabulous you are. If you're feeling generours, click here to donate to Film Aid.

The event was designed by Dalzell Productions of New York

Steve Mendelsohn, Executive Director, Film Aid

Danny Glover accepting his award.

Valentino Achak Deng

Christy Turlington

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