No Fire Zone

“Shocking” —The Guardian

“Vitally Important” —Empire

“An absolute must see” —Nepali Times

“A Tour de Force” —Movies That Matter

—Time Out

“Utterly Convincing” —Toronto Globe and Mail

—Faded Glamour

“Haunting, disturbing…unforgettable” - Right Now, Australia

“Beautifully crafted and heart-wrenching” —Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting

—London Film Review

“Devastating” —Hoopla Australia

“Will break your heart” —Toronto Film Scene

“Shocks on every level” —The London Film Review

“Essential viewing” —Time Out UK

“One of the most chilling documentaries I’ve watched” — David Cameron, UK Prime Minister

“The only film that gives me faith in journalism” - M.I.A, musician and artist

“Images sufficiently graphic to give you nightmares – but sometimes it takes a nightmare to wake us up”—Now Magazine

AN UPDATE ON THE CAMPAIGN SO FAR

It is just over two months since we first showed the film at the UN in Geneva – and we thought it would be worth posting this summary of some of the key events in our campaign so far.

We began the campaign in India, because India’s position was absolutely critical at the UN Human Rights Council which was due to debate a resolution on Sri Lanka and accountability.  We wanted to help put Sri Lanka firmly on the political agenda in India to maximize pressure on the government to both vote for the resolution and – hopefully – encourage as strong a wording of that resolution as possible.

Our first step was an OpEd piece by the film’s director, Callum Macrae – which he wrote for The Hindu (India's second largest and arguably most influential paper) – here:

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-killing-of-a-young-boy/article4428792.ece

At the same time we released two photographs of Tiger leader Villupillai Prabhakaran's 12 year old son, Balachandran, alive and in captivity prior to his execution.

The Hindu ran the story on the front page.  It created a storm - and dominated the news agenda in India for the next few days – and is still an ongoing story today.

Within the next few days Callum did many TV interviews. This, for CNN India, is typical.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0himNQADXs&feature=youtu.be

Three weeks later it was still the top TV story…

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/left-right-centre/sri-lanka-war-crimes-time-for-india-to-take-a-stand/267693?v_also_see

He also did high-profile pieces for the Times of India and various other papers and outlets, including a feature for the Independent in the UK.   There were many dozens of follow-up stories around the world including Japan, several in the US (from the New York Times to the LA Times to the Miami Herald), in Rwanda, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, China and Singapore as well as India, Sri Lanka and the UK.

Here are a few links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/world/asia/28iht-letter28.html?_r=3&

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/this-is-proof-beyond-reasonable-doubt-of-the-execution-of-a-child--not-a-battlefield-death-8500298.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2281246/Given-snack-taken-shot-Pictures-Tamil-Tiger-leaders-son-taken-just-hours-apart-prove-executed-Sri-Lankan-government-forces.html

We followed The Hindu story with a press launch in Delhi.  Producer Zoe Sale held several one-to-one meetings with senior political figures from several parties - and she was later joined by Impact Producer Joanna Natasegara for a press launch in Delhi with 20 minutes of excerpts, hosted by Amnesty India.  Zoe did the intro - there was a panel of five (academics, human rights people, journalists etc). It was attended by around 200 people including over a dozen film crews, press politicians etc.

Callum delivered a filmed address:

http://nofirezone.org/video

…in which he stressed that this is not an academic exercise in accountability, but a vital and necessary process if we are to ensure that history does not repeat itself and that peace a reconciliation are possible.

The political controversy in India continues.  Mass student protests and a hunger strike, were followed by a series of acrimonious debates in the Indian parliament.  The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu announced that the important Asian games – due to be held in India for the first time in 20 years (in Chennai in Tamil Nadu), would be cancelled if Sri Lanka attended.  The DMK, (the rival Tamil Nadu party to the Chief Ministers), withdrew from the coalition government, demanding that the government take a tougher line on the issue at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence issued a sinister statement calling on citizens to name those “betraying the country” by helping us make the film.

http://www.colombopage.com/archive_13A/Mar05_1362464671CH.php

We responded with a widely reported rebuttal.

http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/no-person-resident-in-sri-lanka-helped-us-with-no-fire-zone-no-one-was-paid-for-any-evidence-channel-4/

The eventual wording of the UN resolution – although watered down from its most forcible draft – is still seen by most informed observers as stronger than anything that had been expected a few weeks before.

To coincide with the Indian launch we also launched our website: NoFireZone.org

The website is a valuable resource which we intend to develop more fully over the next few months.

We have also created a facebook page and a twitter account @NoFireZoneMovie

After India the next key event was the third annual conference of the Global Tamil Forum held in the House of Commons in London on the 27th of February where Callum gave a short keynote address and presented a five-minute extract from the film. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was also on the platform and paid tribute to the film, saying it left him “reeling” as well as “shocked, distressed and moved”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Baroness Warsi of the Conservatives also gave short addresses.  Miliband also paid tribute to the team and the film. A number of other prominent politicians were in attendance as well as key international figures like Erik Solheim of Norway – who was the chief peace negotiator in 2002 – 2006.

We also sent letters to the national missions of every member of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as well as their Embassies and High Commissions in London and have held private meetings with some of them and screened extracts.

On the 1st of March we held a breakfast briefing for the media in Geneva, followed by the first full screening of the film, which took place inside the UN’s Palais des Nations.  It was hosted by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

The Sri Lankan government denounced the screening (indeed they tried unsuccessfully to stop it).  It was however, very successful indeed.  It was attended by as many as 200 diplomats and members of national missions (20 different missions were represented), as well as members of NGOs.  The response was very strong. Many diplomats were visibly shocked and distressed by the evidence and we have been in touch with several since.  We know that some changed their minds as a result of the screening.

At the end of the screening Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, arrived - made a 7 minute statement – and left again before there were any questions.  The total silence which greeted his contribution – in contrast to the applause for the film – spoke volumes.

The screening concluded with a panel discussion with a number of participants including Yasmin Sooka – the prominent South African Human Rights advocate and one of the three members of Ban Ki Moon’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. The meeting was also addressed by Gordon Weiss the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka during the last days of the war who also appears in our film.

The film was next screened at the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival which ran two extremely successful (and sold-out) screenings at the main cinema. These were both followed by Q and A sessions with Callum.

We’ve been working closely with Amnesty International both in London, India, Geneva and increasingly with other country offices. We also work with Human Rights Watch, the Sri Lanka Campaign, the Global Tamil Forum, key and influential individuals as well as the ICG and many other key actors to spread the message of the film.

We are working on a possible petition campaign in conjunction with our partners and CHANGE.ORG

While in Geneva – and after the UN screening – we were able to have private meetings with members of a few country missions and show them extracts from the film.

In the end the resolution that was passed – even with the compromises – was widely seen as very significant and stronger than anyone had expected – and we have been given credit for having played an important role in that.

The resolution formally mentioned (without specifically endorsing) the call for a credible international inquiry. It also ensured that the question of Sri Lanka will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the UNHRC in September (in the form of an oral report from Navi Pillay), as well as the meeting next March. Those meetings will now also become a focus for our outreach campaign.

One particularly significant event was the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which deals with serious or persistent violations of the Harare declaration, which outlines the Commonwealth's fundamental political values. CMAG consists of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Maldives (currently suspended), Sierra Leone and Vanuatu.  To the disappointment of many, it emerged that despite its apparent duty to encourage and strengthen the Commonwealth’s commitment to Human Rights, CMAG agreed that the that the next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) will go ahead in Sri Lanka. This means that the Commonwealth will now have as its Chair for the next two years, a regime accused of some of the worst war crimes of this century so far.

The announcement that the Queen will, unusually, not attend CHOGM will be a disappointment to the Sri Lankan regime of President Rajapaksa and his brothers – though they will no doubt draw comfort from the attendance of the British Prime Minister and Prince Charles.

In March the film was an official selection at the Movies that Matter

Festival in The Hague. There were three screenings there, followed by a panel and a Q & A.  Both were very successful – useful contacts were made including an approach from a Dutch MP which we hope will lead to a cross-party screening of the film in the Dutch Parliament.

Also in March the celebrated actor Rufus Sewell agreed to do our commentary, offering his services free of charge.  His contribution adds significantly to the effectiveness of the film and we are extremely grateful for his help.

We are in the process of discussing options for making a shorter TV version of the film for distribution worldwide.

Screenings in the near future include one in London at the London School of Economics, organized jointly by Renaissance Chambers and TAG this evening Tuesday the 7th.

Then next week there will be a screening in the European Parliament in Brussels which Callum will address.  Thereafter he will be travelling to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where the film is set to feature in the Addis Ababa Film Festival.

Planning has begun to hold a high-profile premiere in London – on a date yet to be confirmed.  Plans are also advanced for a week-long tour of Australia in the last week of June.

Many of the relationships that were begun before India are now coming back into play with the team having conversations with over 15 countries to set up parliamentary, festival and public screenings of the film. From key CHOGM countries such as Canada, Australia and South Africa to other global players such as the US and Japan, we have good partners on the ground who see the film as a powerful advocacy tool to continue the campaign for accountability.

In the meantime we are continuing to raise funds so that we can keep the campaign going – hopefully until the meeting of the Human Rights Council in March 2014

In that context – if you have not already done so – can we encourage all our supporters to go to our Kickstarter campaign here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/599171067/no-fire-zone-impact-distribution

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