Magazine article UN Chronicle

FYI-Film Your Issue: A Dialogue for a New Generation

Magazine article UN Chronicle

FYI-Film Your Issue: A Dialogue for a New Generation

Article excerpt

THROUGH AN INNOVATIVE AMERICAN FILM COMPETITION, members of a whole new generation are finding their voice and redefining how they see themselves. They are learning individually, as well as collectively, the difference they can make by taking a stand and impacting local, national and global dialogue. Researchers who chart this so-called "Generation Y" or the "millennials" describe this age group as natural leaders, idealistic, diverse and passionate about making a difference. They are also inclusive, working together to raise awareness not only among their own age group but also in both older and younger generations.


Despite this glowing assessment, statistics in many countries reveal that young adults are considered the least politically engaged members of society. In democratic nations, this is often evident by the percentage of voter turnout for young people, compared to that of their older counterpart. However, this does not quantify the immense contribution that many youth want to make to society. Reports suggest that university students and young adults alike are interested in shaping the world in ways they see as tangible. In fact, in many cultures they are volunteering at an all-time high and are active in the community at the grass-roots level.

Heathcliff Rothman of the United States, a journalist and social entrepreneur, was compelled to explore creative ways to inspire young people to empower themselves and engage in civic learning. One provocative idea he had was to have youth proactively take a stand in their lives and the world by documenting" issues that move them through films. This development was the creation of a youth-oriented outreach called FYI--Film Your Issue. In an "issues-based" film contest, young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 years are invited to create 30- to 60-second live or animated films, which highlight a myriad of possible issues that impact human beings. The competition is currently only open to United States residents; however, in 2007, FYI is inviting foreign film entries.

The pursuit of FYI is multi-fold. Its primary vision is for the next generation of leaders to experience and comprehend the importance of human rights and the power that every individual carries. Participants are encouraged to highlight their diverse points of view and convictions. The 2006 films covered a wide range of issues, such as social disconnection, relations between First and Third World nations, disparaging stereotypes of the disabled, safe sex, beauty and body image, and sensationalism of fear in the media and government.

As a facilitator, FYI has created a platform for multilateral dialogues. Young adults are using their films as catalysts, spinning conversations and cross-fertilizing ideas between different generations, cultures and societies, hence promoting social awareness and well-being. It is also an important tool for youth throughout the world to connect, possibly increasing partnerships among future leaders, which may result in a peaceful cooperation among nations. While FYI has created a platform for self-expression and youth dialogue in the United States, other grass-roots organizations worldwide have created a framework for people to film issues that are important to them. Through the power of multimedia, these outreach programmes enable people to connect issues and solve human problems.

It is only through dialogue that partnerships between various groups can form. When older generations can share important communications with their younger counterparts, current leaders will empower youth to become leaders themselves and take ownership toward narrowing societal divides. In an open letter, displayed on the FYI website (, the Dalai Lama eloquently captures the nature of the FYI message: "I believe it is important that issues like working for peace in the world, preserving the natural environment and protecting human rights do not remain merely the business of older adults and that those of you who are still young should also be involved. …

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