Earlier this month the United Nations Development Programme launched the second edition of its Film for Change project in the Maldives.
The initiative helps young people to explore socially significant issues through short films. Participants are guided by mentors on the technical and creative skills needed to make documentary-style movies.
Themes are inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and this year’s were focused on Quality Education (SDG4), Gender Equality (SDG5), Climate Action (SDG13), and Life below Water (SDG14).
The Maldives Independent spoke to some people who took part in last year’s project.
Mariyam Yasmeen said the initiative was one of the first – and one of the few – opportunities in the Maldives to learn about film-making and to gain an insight into the industry.
She worked on the film Iloshi, which looked at responsible consumption and production.
“It helped to spark the conversation on protecting the environment as it related more personally to people”, said Ali Shamran, who also worked on the film. “Even those who worked on the film became more aware of reducing the use of plastic.”
The Maldives film industry is small with only a handful of well-known actors, but projects like Film for Change are helping to open the industry to new and young talent who are interested in the field of film-making.
“A few of those who participated went on to become interns for the mentors who helped, so there was a lot support for these mentors,” said Yasmeen.
Yasmeen makes videos for the dive centre she works at, applying the videography and editing skills she learned such as how to shoot and the different angles to use. She wants to do more film-making in the future.
Another former participant, Ula Ahmed, is currently working on a feature film. She said that one of the hardest things about film-making in the Maldives is finding actors, especially women, who are discouraged from the profession. There is also a lack of middle aged or older women who act.
Her film, Emeehun, explored the struggles faced by Maldivians with mental health conditions.
While the initial film screening sparked a conversation, she said there was little change in the stigma towards mental health.
“A lot of people still don’t talk about it, or they hide from their families and their employers. There are no sick days for mental health. It’s not taken seriously.”
There are only five therapists in the country and their practices are in Malé, making it hard for people in atolls to access mental health services.
The Film for Change initiative is not only a means to explore film-making, but raise issues that affect Maldivian society and how they can be solved.
This year’s films were shown at Schwack Cinema, with public screenings at Meraki Coffee Roasters, Maldives National University and The Goatfish Café and Bistro.
UNDP photo showing this year’s launch event of Film for Change.