During the 34 years of its life, Belfast-based Cinemagic has quietly and purposefully gone about its business, forging creative partnerships across the world and establishing itself as one of the world’s leading international festivals of film for young people.
Set up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, it regularly delivers festivals in Belfast, Dublin, New York and Los Angeles and has hosted many major figures from the film industry, including Danny Boyle, Kenneth Branagh, Mike Leigh, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Pierce Brosnan and M. Night Shyamalan. It has also produced hundreds of short films about issues of concern to young people, from bullying, mental health and discrimination to climate change and the environment.
This week, in collaboration with British Consulate Los Angeles, it premiered a short film entitled Heaven on Earth, which focuses on climate change through the eyes and experience of a young activist. It was screened at Jordan High School in LA and was inspired by the real-life story of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Jordan High School student Heaven Watson. Heaven became an environmental activist while contending with various environment-related health concerns at her school.
Joan Burney Keatings MBE, Cinemagic’s chief executive, said, “Through this short film, we are delighted to spread this important message and to spark debate on climate change among young people. It has been made possible thanks to our unwavering relationship with The British Consulate General Los Angeles and the GREAT Programme. Collectively, this film will inspire, provoke and help share the story of our planet from a young person’s perspective. Its wider objective is to stimulate debate and discussion on environmental topics, including environmental stewardship among youth in Los Angeles”.
The GREAT Programme is the UK Government’s flagship international marketing campaign, aimed at showcasing all four corners of the country. Cinemagic’s artistic footprint in Los Angeles spans 13 years, during which it has engaged with thousands of young people and schools in partnership with all the major film studios and production companies.
In New York, earlier in the month, Cinemagic screened a ground-breaking short film entitled Abia. It was part of the United Nations International Women’s Day celebration and the UN Commission on the status of women.
Abia is Cinemagic’s first project in the Middle East was produced in partnership with the Jordanian NGO Generations for Peace. It focuses on the controversial issue of gender-based violence and was shown at the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations in New York, supported by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Ireland in Jordan.
This emotionally demanding, 14-minute film documents one 18-year-old woman’s experience of an arranged and abusive marriage, which took place after she fled her home in Syria. It was created and produced by Cinemagic’s industry professionals and mentors, working alongside young people from diverse backgrounds living in Jordan.
Ambassador Fergal Mythen, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the UN, reflected on the pressing need to advocate for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls:
“Ireland is proud to host a screening of Abia in our mission to the United Nations, as we mark International Women’s Day and the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Ambassadors, human rights experts and UN youth delegates came together to view the film and more deeply understand its important message. Ireland will continue to champion youth and the fight against gender-based violence across the world.”
Cinemagic (www.cinemagic.org.uk) is an award-winning non-profit film organisation, founded during the Northern Ireland conflict to teach young people about film making through workshops, masterclasses and film productions.
To view the official trailer for Heaven on Earth: https://youtube.com/watch?v=yUCzImh4LcA&feature=shares
To view a ‘behind the scenes making of’ the film: https://youtube.com/watch?v=NE_6CWspaHw&feature=shares