Greenwich International Film Festival Launches Out of the Gate UNICEF Partnership

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A new film festival in Connecticut launching in 2015 will be the first to come out of the gate with an official charity association and make philanthropy an actual part of its mandate. The Greenwich International Film Festival (GIFF) has partnered with UNICEF for its OneMinutesJr. film program for youth, and, in a separate initiative, will also present the annual Best Socially Conscious Film Award at their GIFF awards show.

Founded by Carina Crain, Colleen deVeer, and Wendy Stapleton Reyes “to bridge the worlds of film, finance, and philanthropy” — according to the press release — “the Festival’s mission is to provide filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work with the goal of finding financing and distribution.  Additionally, GIFF will harness the power of film to support a select cause each year. “

The Festival — which runs June 4 to 7 next year — will feature 25 international films, opening night parties, an honoree event and screening, and an awards ceremony to celebrate GIFF’s films.  Companion events and screenings will be held throughout the year. 

In a joint statement, the founders said: “Given Greenwich’s strong ties to the financial world, it felt natural to build a model that made the most of those connections to benefit both individual filmmakers and a charity everyone believed in. We are so lucky to have the U.S. Fund for UNICEF on board and have them believe in us as well.”

Outside of Europe, UNICEF — the children's rights and emergency relief organization — is the main financial contributor, coordinator and administrator of OneMinutesJr. The network was set up in 2002 and “gives young people, especially those who are underprivileged or marginalised, the opportunity to have their voices heard by a broad audience. To share with the world their ideas, dreams, fascinations, anxieties and viewpoints,” it says on the OneMinutesJr. web site.

“It consists of the interactive OneMinutesJr website, a yearly festival competition, workshops across the world, video broadcasting on ten European public TV channels, and screenings at festivals and events.”

UNICEF works closely with local UNICEF offices to teach young people (ages 12 to 20) basic camera and directing skills, storytelling, teamwork and how to think creatively about issues that affect their lives.  The participants develop their own stories based on the workshop theme to produce a 60 second video.  

“We are so very grateful for our partnership with GIFF in its inaugural year,” Leslie Goldman, U.S. Fund for UNICEF vice-president of community fundraising, said in a statement. “Support from GIFF will help UNICEF amplify the voices of children and harness the power of communication to promote child survival, development, protection and participation.” 

Elvis Mitchell — who currently curates Film Independent at LACMA (presented by the New York Times) and hosts National Public Radio’s The Treatment on KCRW — has been hired to oversee programming at GIFF. 

The call for entry opens September 1, 2014 and GIFF will be programming films in the following competition categories: Narrative Feature, Narrative Short, Documentary Feature and Documentary Short.  Cash prizes and awards will be awarded including a Best Socially Conscious Film Award. Additionally, GIFF will feature a Work In Progress category with a post-production prize.

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