Haiti: Outdoor Movies Help Buoy Spirits of Haitian Youth

Hundreds of alfresco cinema-goers in Haiti watch a feature film shown as part of a project for youngsters set up by Bristol's Cube Cinema. Photograph: Cube Cinema.
Children traumatised by the Haiti earthquake are being offered light relief in the form of films and messages of support from British children through a project set up by Bristol's Cube Cinema. Scores of children are being helped forget their traumas while they gather at a makeshift open air cinema screen showing Disney and Pixar favourites.Dusk falls, the insects bite and Scores of children gather and are transfixed by the flickering images that, for a short time at least, help them forget their troubles.The project involves showing children in Haiti how to make their own films, which will then be sent back to Bristol, forging a cinematic link between Britain and the earthquake-hit Caribbean country.

The Bafta award-winning director, Cube volunteer and one of those behind the Haiti Kids Kino Project, Esther May Campbell, said they hoped to offer traumatised youngsters a brief escape."This is the most direct humanitarian response we can offer," she said. "When children who have suffered these kinds of traumas have nothing to do, desperation and anxiety levels shoot through the roof, she told the Guardian newspaper. The Cube has skills, passion and networks, enabling us to create a mobile cinema for young people, intending to offer community, hope and distraction.Jungle Book, WALL-E and Up, and European classics such as Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon are being screened alongside old favourites such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films, Looney Tunes cartoons and even the Wombles.

The films were carefully selected so that children who can't speak English can still enjoy them. As many as 500 children have seen the films. Films in the country's official language, French, such as Le Ballon d'Or, a film about a talented footballer set in a poor west African community, have gone down especially well. Another highlight has been the audience clapping along to Vic Reeves singing Life's a Treat from Aardman's Shaun the Sheep. "There's more demand than we can supply," said Marko Wilkinson who volunteers on the project in Haiti, along with his The Cube colleague, David Fitzsimmons. Besides taking the films to Haiti, the pair has also brought postcards from children in Bristol holding up messages that say: "Bon jou" "Hello" in Haitian Creole.Giving children in disaster zones something to do is really important, says the United Nations. "The worst thing for children in natural disasters isn't just the damage that they see around them, but also when they sit around with nothing to do, said UN emergencies communication officer UN Patrick McCormick. It ramps up anxiety and despair, and that's what does even more damage."

Hayley Jarvis


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