Growing up in India, Meher Tatna could see the spoils of child labor first hand. There were pint-sized beggars on the road and child servants in homes; out of view, youngsters toiled in factories rather than attend school, in some cases sold into slavery due to their families’ grinding poverty.
So the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s $500,000 grant to an Indian organization dedicated to eradicating child labor and slavery hit especially close to home for Tatna, HFPA’s president since June 2017.
“It’s one thing I am just really proud of,” says Tatna of the grant to Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.
Part of the $3.25 million HFPA is awarding educational and cultural organizations this year, the donation is an outgrowth of a conversation Tatna had with David Linde, head of Participant Media. He suggested several possible candidates for HFPA’s big annual international grant, KSCF among them.
Tatna, who left India to attend college in the U.S., was familiar with Satyarthi as a fellow countryman who had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. But she deferred the choice to HFPA’s grants department — past recipients include the Intl. Rescue Committee — and was undeniably pleased with this year’s selection.
“I was so happy because I did not want to put my finger on the scale and force our members to give it to an organization that I chose,” Tatna says. “The fact he has been recognized Nobel Peace Prize did not hurt.”
HFPA and Participant hosted a starry event for KSCF at Cannes in May, when Satyarthi “kind of wowed the crowd” with his quiet charisma, Tatna says.
Participant screened footage from “Kailash,” a documentary it co-produced about Satyarthi’s work that received a grand jury prize at Sundance and will be distributed later this year. At one point during the Cannes event, Satyarthi got attendees, including Cate Blanchett, to raise their hands in a pledge to join the cause.
“We are all very grateful that HFPA has made this investment in the future of the world’s children,” Satyarthi says. “The issue of violence against children manifests itself in several ways, such as child labor, slavery, trafficking and the refugee crisis.”
The New Delhi-based organization plans to use grant money to further its child-friendly village model, in which villages commit to being child-labor free, enroll all youngsters in school, include youth in village decisions and build kid-friendly policies around the world. According to KSCF, there are 152 million child laborers, 10 million child slaves and millions more who are trafficked, out of school, refugees fleeing violence or natural disasters around the globe.
“These children remain outside the social-protection net, making them more vulnerable to be trapped in the vicious circle of child labor, illiteracy and poverty,” Satyarthi says. “Our work makes the well-being of children the central focus and mission in everything we do.”
As shown in “Kailash,” the organization also helps educate children who have been sold into slavery and reunite them with their families when possible. Directed by Derek Doneen, the documentary outlines the obstacles and resistance Satyarthi, an engineer by profession, has faced while advocating for children.
To reflect ongoing developments in the foundation’s work, “Kailash” has been updated for its upcoming theatrical release.
HFPA also regularly donates funds to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation for preservation efforts. This year, Tatna solicited board member input on which film to preserve next, and Alexander Payne selected “The Black Pirate,” starring Douglas Fairbanks, as the next restoration project for Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation. The 1926 silent movie was shot in two-tone Technicolor process.
HFPA will showcase its philanthropy endeavors Aug. 9 at its annual grants banquet. The HFPA secures hefty licensing fees from the televised Golden Globes Awards and has donated more than $30 million to entertainment-related charities, scholarship programs and humanitarian causes over the past 25 years. It has provided more than 1,500 scholarships and helped restore more than 90 films.
William H. Macy will host this year’s gala; Jennifer Garner, Steve Carell and Charlize Theron are among the presenters at this year’s grants gala.
As grateful as Satyarthi is for HFPA’s grant, he hopes that Hollywood and the media will continue to focus attention on the plight of children around the globe going forward.
“Too many children in India are sewing embellishments; in Ghana too many are harvesting cocoa; in France too many are trafficked for sex from Africa; and in the United States too many are toiling in the tobacco fields,” he says. “I call upon every storyteller and dreamer in Hollywood to raise our collective consciousness, to highlight how we are one global family, and to demonstrate that what happens to a child anywhere is a stain on humanity everywhere.”
What: Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s annual grants banquet
When: Aug. 9
Where: Beverly Hilton