Sunday , November 19 2017

Chopra urges Syria refugee help – ‘Season’ examines immigrant issues

AMMAN, Jordan, Sept 11, (Agencies): The world must do more to help Syrian refugee children get an education, actress Priyanka Chopra said after chatting and joking with young refugees at an after-school center in Jordan’s capital.

Individuals can make a difference with donations if governments don’t step up, said Chopra, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and Bollywood and Hollywood star.

“We need to take it into our own hands because this is our world and we only have one of it,” Chopra told The Associated Press at the end of her first day in Jordan.

“I think the world needs to understand that this is not just a Syrian refugee crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis,” she said in an interview Sunday.

Without sufficient support, “this can be an entire generation of kids that could turn to extremism because they have not gotten an education,” she said.

Some 5 million Syrians have fled civil war in their homeland since 2011, many settling in nearby Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The influx has overburdened host countries, including their schools. More than half a million Syrian refugee children of school age — or one-third of the total — are not enrolled in school or informal education in the host countries. Meanwhile, UN and aid agencies supporting the refugees routinely face large funding gaps.

Programs

On Sunday, Chopra, a light gray scarf slung over her hair, visited a UNICEF-backed children’s center in Jordan’s capital of Amman. The UN child welfare agency supports more than 200 such “Makani” centers — Arabic for “my space” — in Jordan, along with other refugee education programs.

In the center, preteen girls and boys sat around low table or on the ground, coloring or gluing glitter on paper. Only a few children knew who she was, but easily engaged with her.

A young boy told her he wanted to become an actor. She told him that one of the prerequisites is not to be shy and then challenged him to a staring contest. They locked eyes until she stopped, laughing.

Chopra later said she was moved by the hopefulness of the children she met.

“Some of them want professional careers, some of them want to go back to their countries and rebuild,” she said. “Parents … want that for their children.”

Chopra, 35, shot to fame as Miss World in 2000 and has acted in several dozen Indian movies and is increasingly making her mark in the United States.

She stars in “Quantico,” a TV drama about FBI trainees on ABC, now entering its third season. She appeared in the “Baywatch” movie and has two more coming out, “Isn’t It Romantic” with Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine and Liam Hemsworth, as well as “A Kid Like Jake” with Claire Danes, Jim Parsons and Octavia Spencer.

Chopra said that she didn’t realize until working in America that it’s “difficult for a woman of color” to be cast in a wide range of roles.

She said change will come when “people like me and other people, other actors that are coming in from other parts of the world, in global entertainment …we dig our feet in and say I don’t want to only play the stereotype of what you expect me to be.”

“It’s a fight, it’s a battle, and I am not afraid to fight it,” she said.

She recalled being insecure about her looks as a teenager.

“I was considered darker toned, so in my head, I was not pretty and that’s the ideology,” said Chopra, who once did an ad for a skin lightening cream, a decision she later regretted. At the same time, she said she’s seen “a lot of girls who are light-skinned in America who say, ‘I am too pale, I’m not pretty’.”

In India, she has become selective, preferring more complex roles to the pretty girl parts of her early days.

Chopra is also producing films in regional languages, to create an outlet for artists who might otherwise by overlooked by the dominant Hindi-language movie industry. The latest is a film about two refugee children who come from Nepal to India.

A high-school teacher fleeing his war-torn African nation finds refuge in France, only to learn that the life he tries to build there is fraught with fear, uncertainty, and the traumas of the life he left behind.

“A Season in France,” the new feature by acclaimed Chadian helmer Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, is a timely portrait of lives scarred by war and migration, set against the backdrop of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis.

Picture world premieres as part of the Special Presentations program at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival. It’s the sixth appearance in Toronto for Haroun, who won the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes in 2010 for “A Screaming Man.”

Inspired by the story of a Chadian refugee in France who burned himself alive when his asylum request was rejected, Haroun describes “Season” as an effort to “tell the story of invisible faces” of immigrants who arrive in Europe, hoping to rebuild their lives.

At a time when the refugee crisis has vexed European policy-makers and raised urgent questions about how the world responds to the suffering of millions fleeing war and unrest, the filmmaker describes the situation as “a human tragedy.”

“We can’t chase these people,” he says, citing the example of his native Chad, an impoverished nation which has welcomed an estimated 400,000 refugees. “It’s a question of compassion and humanity.”

“Season” tells the story of Abbas, a high-school teacher from the Central African Republic, who is forced to flee his country’s civil war. With his brother and his two young children, he attempts to find asylum in France. But memories of his past life — including a wife who was killed during the war — continue to haunt him, even as new love seems to offer him a chance at a fresh start.

Also:

LOS ANGELES:  French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, who was briefly detained by authorities in Beirut the day after his new film “The Insult” won a prize at the Venice Film Festival, has been cleared of all charges by a Lebanese military court.

“Charges against Ziad have been dropped by the military court: he is free,” producer Jean Brehat, who works regularly with Doueiri, informed Variety in a text message on Monday.

French news agency Agence France-Presse had reported that Doueiri was briefly detained upon arriving at the Beirut airport Sunday and that he was ordered to appear Monday before a Lebanese military court. Though the exact charges against him remain unclear, the action on the part of Lebanese authorities is believed to stem from the director’s previous film, “The Attack,” which was partly shot in Israel. Lebanon bans its citizens from visiting Israel, with which it is officially at war.

“They held me at the airport for two and a half hours,” Doueiri told AFP late Sunday, adding that he was released only after his French and Lebanese passports were confiscated. Doueiri also said he was ordered to appear Monday morning before a military tribunal “for an investigation into the charges.”

“I am profoundly hurt. I came back to Lebanon with a prize from Venice. The Lebanese police have authorized the broadcast of. I have no idea who is responsible for what has happened,” the director told AFP. “We will find out at court who is behind this affair.”

Doueiri was not immediately available for comment after the military panel apparently cleared him Monday. Brehat said that the director’s passports were returned to him.

“The Attack” is a drama centering on a renowned Arab surgeon living in Israel who discovers that his wife is the perpetrator of a suicide bombing. The movie was banned in Lebanon in 2013 following its release because Doueiri partly filmed it in Israel and used some Israeli actors. In June, Lebanese authorities banned Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” because lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli.

“The Insult,” Doueiri’s fourth film, is meant to have its Lebanese premiere this week. The movie chronicles how a single slur pits a belligerent Lebanese Christian auto mechanic against an older Palestinian Muslim and flares into a court case that divides national Lebanese opinion. Kamel El Basha, one of the two male leads, won Best Actor in Venice on Saturday.

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