Fundamental humanitarian issues, where social change and the advancement of humanitarian causes can be achieved through the power of television and film storytelling, is the theme behind the recently introduced Impact Humanity Television and Film Festival (IHTFF). The inaugural event was held at the Moscow Cinema in Yerevan, Armenia on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 15 and 16, 2019.
Founded by David McKenzie, President, Associated Television International; and Sergey Sarkisov, President of Blitz Films (and former Consul General to Los Angeles for the Republic of Armenia), the common mission behind the IHTFF is to raise awareness on the issues related to the global humanitarian crisis. The annual festival showcases the key television shows, feature films and documentaries that educate, inform and help prevent acts of inhumanity around the world.
“We put together an infrastructure and set the wheels in motion,” said David McKenzie. “I thought of the idea and the name. Then I started to recruit people like my wife and daughter (TV personalities Laura McKenzie and Elizabeth Stanton); Dean Cain and Montel Williams, who I have worked with before; and Sergey Sarkisov.
Also involved in the festival as a co-founder and co-chair (alongside Dean Cain and Montel Williams) is Marine Ales, the composer, critic and the author of 300 songs in Armenian and Russian.
“We were honored to be met by and supported by the Prime Minister’s wife, Anna Hakobyan,” noted McKenzie. “The President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian also took special time to meet with us to make sure the success of this important festival was achieved. He has always been a great advocate of human rights.”
“I felt that if we could encourage producers and directors and filmmakers to tackle projects that would help people and promote human rights they would understand why this is just so important,” he added. “While some predicted we might get maybe 100 film entries, the end result, including some that did not qualify, was about 4,000 entries. Now it is up to streamers like Netflix and the broadcasters to step up and showcase these films. They need to be seen.”
An Earlier Humanitarian Cause
In 2017, David McKenzie, Dean Cain and Montel Williams produced Associated Television International documentary feature “Architects of Denial,” which traced the 1915 slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and the U.S. government's refusal to use the word "genocide" to describe this horror.
“My father was Armenian, and he and his whole family had suffered through the Armenian Genocide,” noted McKenzie. “One of the promises I made to my Dad was to do something on this atrocity when I could. That was ‘Architects of Denial.’ I told my parents I would always concentrate on issues that need to be addressed, which right now is this festival.”
“Our job as an organization is to recognize and promote the people and the films who won,” added McKenzie. “If I went to some of the networks or station groups that I work with they would absolutely get it. But the streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are the ones we have to ask why they are not recognizing these films.”
The Aurora Forum
This first IHTFF, which seeks the type of television projects and films targeted to these key issues, was presented at the international Aurora Forum. Established in 2017, the Aurora Forum brings together the world’s leading experts on social, scientific and technological, educational, and humanitarian innovation. Working together, the organizations and the individuals involved with the Aurora Forum strive to strength the prospects of a meaningful and sustainable national and global change.
“The Aurora Forum is based on our belief that global Armenians and all global citizens who aspire to tackle the world’s most-pressing challenges, can do so by embracing the best in humanitarian, educational and technological practices to make lasting advances in social, cultural, and scientific spheres,” said Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative in a statement. “We hope that the Aurora Forum will engage international networks and also allow new linkages to be made for maximum impact.”
Founded in 2015, the Aurora Prize, meanwhile, was established on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors. The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is granted annually to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.
The Impact Humanity Television and Film Festival – Year 1
The IHTFF invites TV producers and filmmakers to submit their TV projects (documentary shorts and news stories, TV episodic series and specials, and narrative and documentary features) that fall within the scope of the initiative to FilmFreeway. FilmFreeway reaches filmmakers and artists worldwide.
This first edition of the Impact Humanity Television and Film Festival received over 2,000 accepted submissions from 112 countries, each emphasizing human rights issues and the compassionate efforts to preserve and advance humanitarian causes.
Dean Cain and Montel Williams presented the first set of recipients of the IHTFF.
“It is our great honor to introduce our new Festival as part of this year's Aurora Forum,” said Dean Cain in a statement. “The IHTFF will highlight television and film projects that involve human rights and strive to preserve and advance humanitarian causes. With so much strife and indifference in the world we live in today, our goal is to recognize responsible television and film projects which are catalysts for change for the betterment of humanity."
Noted Montel Williams: "Our festival will focus on the current humanitarian progress being made, despite local and global obstacles, that directly speak about human rights and causes in a significant way. This is the moral, and the right thing, to do. We want to build meaningful bridges to the future, which will impact society in the years that lie ahead of us."
The inaugural winners judged by a panel of distinguished industry leaders were…
Best Documentary Shorts & News Stories: “Dream Mountain” (Venezuela) – directed by Javier Chacon
Best TV Specials: “Fear, Source of Terror” (Netherlands) – directed by Camiel Zwart
Best TV Episodic Series: “Born and Raised in the Ghetto” (Kenya) – directed by Johan Mottelson
Best Narrative Feature: “Amaraica” (USA) – directed by Tom Sparks
Best Documentary Feature: “Burkinabe Rising: The Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso” – directed by Iara Lee
Out of Competition Short Film: “The Heart of Nuba” (USA) – directed by Kenneth Carlson
Out of Competition Short Film: “Tombe” (Armenia) – directed by Diana Kardumyan
Additionally, the People’s Award was presented to Diana Kardumyan for Outstanding Local Production, and the Global Impact Award to director Kenneth Carlson.
“Next year I plan to produce a one-hour television special, which will feature clips of each one of those important films,” said David McKenzie. “And we are hoping to do this festival in other places around the world. This is a global humanitarian crisis, and we need to encourage television and film producers to raise awareness to human rights through their future projects.”
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