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Festival del cinema dei diritti umani di Berlino 2023

Rapporto industria: Documentario

Patricia Arquette racconta gli sforzi di Give Love per sostenere le comunità colpite dalla povertà

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L'attrice hollywoodiana è con la responsabile di programma Alisa Keesey per spiegare come usa la sua popolarità per promuovere un più ampio accesso ai servizi sanitari

Patricia Arquette racconta gli sforzi di Give Love per sostenere le comunità colpite dalla povertà
sx-dx: Zahra Nader, Patricia Arquette e Alisa Keesey durante il panel (© Dovile Sermokas)

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On 17 October, the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin (11-22 October) hosted a 90-minute talk titled “Empowering Through Engagement – A Conversation on Give Love”. The event, moderated by editor and journalist Zahra Nader, saw the participation of award-winning actress Patricia Arquette, founder of the US-based NGO Give Love, and the body’s programme director, Alisa Keesey.

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Founded in 2010, over the last 13 years, Give Love has gained extensive experience in working with community stakeholders in poverty-stricken areas of Haiti, Colombia, Nicaragua, Uganda, Kenya and the USA. The body’s main mission is “to provide education and consulting on environmentally friendly sanitation solutions”. It’s an emergency often neglected or overshadowed, Arquette and Keesey explained, citing how recent World Bank figures remind us that sanitation is one of the “most off-track development goals” because, to date, “about 3.6 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services. […] Today, more children die owing to a lack of access to safe water than because of bullets,” Keesey pointed out.

Arquette later touched upon what prompted her to kick off Give Love. After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, she was shocked by “the traumatising images on the news” and got in touch with a close friend, a nurse who worked as a responder on the ground. She kept thinking about “ideas to back a sustainable community”, in light of a future, stronger earthquake that seismologists had predicted. The actress had no idea how to proceed but gradually surrounded herself with experts, and leveraged her popularity as a way to expand her network, and ask for help and resources. Compost sanitation solutions proved to be the best options, as they could be implemented with “materials found locally” and contribute “to killing the pathogens”. The first pilot project was successful enough to push Arquette and her team to venture further and expand their scope.

Later, Keesey revealed she had joined Give Love after receiving a voice message sent overnight by Arquette, which she defined as “the call”. Keesey was first amazed by Arquette’s efforts and promised to call back in the morning to get things started. However, Arquette asked her to start working right away, as she needed a five-page document ready by 9 AM.

This turbulent start was just the beginning of their long collaboration, which has led them to develop “incredibly deep human relationships” and pursue their commendable battle worldwide.

Arquette admitted that most of their struggles originate from the fact that these endeavours are obviously not part of any “profitable business model. […] I don’t like to go to big conferences with big talks to the richest people in the world any more. [At the end of each event], they all nod their heads, they talk about compost and solar power, and then they donate no money to any of these things. I have better things to do than sit with really rich people doing nothing about it,” she said, adding how “raising awareness” among those individuals is quite useless at this stage.

Speaking about striking a balance between her work for Give Love and her acting gigs, Arquette said that her popularity gives her “a platform [to speak from]”, and her workaholic attitude may be some sort of “trauma response. […] I don’t think I’ve been very good at balancing things though; I just don’t sleep,” she underscored.

Towards the end of the discussion, Arquette highlighted the benefits of the educational and training efforts that NGOs like Give Love can offer: “We’re basically ‘upscaling’ people, or replicating ourselves.” Instructing five, ten or 15 groups or schools can empower these communities by giving them the opportunity to teach “thousands of other people”, thus “moving things around” and triggering a virtuous circle.

Give Love is one of the organisations set to be featured in Ruben Abruña’s upcoming doc Holy Shit – Can Poop Save the World?, produced by Valentin Thurn for Germany’s Thurnfilm (see the interview with the producer), co-produced by Switzerland’s Peacock Films and sold internationally by Austria’s Autlook Filmsales. The feature explores what happens to the food we digest after it leaves our bodies, and whether this waste ends up being discarded or recycled. Throughout the film, the director embarks on an investigative yet entertaining quest through 16 cities across four continents.

The event was rounded off by a Q&A session.

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