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New York Film Academy Partners with Johns Hopkins University’s SWAN Group to Host Documentary Film Forum New York Film Academy Partners with Johns Hopkins University’s SWAN Group to Host Documentary Film Forum

October 21, 2016

The School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Women’s Alumni Network (SWAN) of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and the New York Film Academy (NYFA) have joined forces to launch a unique Documentary Film Program. As a start, the partnership has planned for a series of three events that intends to spotlight issues and trends in global development, leveraging the diverse technical expertise of JHU and SAIS alumni, and use the power of documentary film to uncover a featured story. The Forum premiered at NYFA’s Battery Park campus on the evening of October 21, 2016.

“We are so thrilled and honored to collaborate with SAIS Women’s Alumni Network of Johns Hopkins University,” said NYFA’s Senior Executive Vice President, David Klein. “SWAN's focus on international relations and humanitarian efforts across the globe so closely align with our mission.”

In the first event of the inaugural SWAN-NYFA Documentary Film Forum, award-winning filmmakers Marie-Helene Carleton (JHU ’99) and Micah Garen shared a human perspective of the Syrian refugee crisis in the documentary “Light on the Sea: One Woman’s Story from the Front Lines of the Refugee Crisis.” Following the screening, International Rescue Committee’s Bob Kitchen, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response, and Sarah O’Hagan (SAIS ’86), IRC Board Co-Chair, discussed the broader repercussions of the refugee crisis and the international humanitarian response. The discussion also included a surprise Skype visit from Neda Kadri, the Syrian American woman in the film, who volunteers in Lesvos, Greece, helping refugees disembark from the inflatable rafts that bring them from the Syrian coast.

Every day, thousands of refugees arrive at Europe’s doorstep by land and sea. According to IOM and UNHCR estimates, one million refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe since December 2015, pressuring governments, humanitarian organizations and the international community to respond.

With over 11 million Syrians fleeing their homes since the start of the war and 13.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance, Syrians comprise the largest group of asylum seekers in Europe.

“Every day we read news headlines peppered with alarming statistics about the refugee crisis. Last night delved deeper,” said SAIS alumna, Emily Howells (’08), who introduced the event on behalf of SWAN. “The filmmakers’ personal accounts and experiences revealed the human element behind the crisis, connecting our relatively comfortable and secure lives in the U.S. to the plight and desperate reality of tens of thousands of individuals and families.”

The SAIS Women's Alumni Network was founded to position SAIS as a leader on the issue of women's leadership within the international relations community. Their global network aims to equip SAIS leaders with the skills, knowledge and tools necessary to excel in international careers.

David Klein noted, “The New York Film Academy is dedicated to bringing filmmaking and the visual arts to the far reaches of the world to give people the skills to communicate the immense challenges so many are facing. Examples of NYFA’s efforts in this regard includes recent outreach and training programs for Cuban filmmakers, African filmmakers and Saudi women filmmakers. Often, through this type of communication, people join forces to intervene, lift others up, and even save lives.”

“As our gender inequality in film infographic based on a study conducted in 2012 clearly shows, women are severely underrepresented in our industry,” said Klein. “For example, in 2012, of the top 250 films released, only 9 percent were directed by women. Half of the world's population are women, and their voices need to be heard.” NYFA Documentary Chair, Andrea Swift, further stated that the “New York Film Academy strives to help alleviate the inequality that exists in the film arts.”

The goal of bringing awareness to and creating dialogue around these pressing issues was certainly achieved in this first NYFA / SWAN event.

The Academy and SWAN aim to have the second part of the series in March 2017.

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