RAJ YAGNIK: A FILMMAKER WHO EDUCATES YOUTH THROUGH PICTURES AND SIMPLE DIALOGUE

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Author: Emili Ema Sedlar

Making films that focus on human rights and the struggle people go through every day, can be extremely challenging when introducing it to children, especially since it is hard to illustrate what conflict and prejudice does to people and how sometimes, there are many of those that do not come out of it successfully. Visual arts is a powerful tool for children in order to explain through pictures how the lives of people differ from culture to culture, conflict to conflict. Yet many do not know how out there, there are courageous filmmakers that travel and deliver extraordinary stories about children and tell these stories to their younger audiences. Raj Yagnik is one of these champions who for years has made films for NGOs and worked with incredible young people that wish to tell their stories.

Recently at the Animafest in Zagreb, Yagnik introduced to the Croatian public his short animated film called „Exam Stress: Syrian Style“ (Video embedded below) at this year’s Animafest, which has received enormous praise and positive reviews. This year, his main focus is to educate young people about the conflict in Syria through the eyes of children.

Working for UNICEF for a long time, Yagnik has made films about Syrian children trying to get back to education. „UNICEF Damascus approached me to commission this film. They were helping a lot of children who were sitting their national exams after horrendous journeys. They wanted to tell their stories, but the children involved didn’t want to be identified, the individual stories were varied and there were many details that were politically sensitive”, explained Yagnik.

Furthermore, the way how Yagnik got in touch with refugee children was in Zataari refugee camp as a part of a project called “You Know Me” about children that were out of school in North Africa and the Middle East. “I have had more contact with children who have not been lucky enough to make it to Europe – the vast majority of children affected by this terrible conflict are stuck in Syria or refugees in Syria’s neighboring countries”, said Yagnik.

Yagnik described how even though we are seven years into the war in Syria, unfortunately many people still find this topic boring and how it is hard to even explain to people about the true struggle children go through every day, especially those that are still in Syria and those in Europe who are trying to find a new home. “The war in Syria is a horrible tragedy, but this is actually an uplifting story about the human spirit and how young people can overcome obstacles so they can create a better future. My job was to find an original and engaging way of sharing this story” continued Yagnik.

The film was shown at numerous festivals throughout the world and Yagnik is excited to make future films that will make people laugh. “I like to make people laugh, and I haven’t made a funny film for a while. I’d like to do that”, ended Yagnik.

 The study referenced is from this site: http://www.businessinsider.com/study-women-and-minorities-still-underrepresented-in-film-2017-7

From the Author: 

Hi there lovely people! 

My name is Emili Ema Sedlar and I am a journalist from Croatia. It is such an honor to be volunteering for Women’s Rights News and bringing out new ideas about today’s issues in society. I am a college student, majoring in journalism and communications. In the past few years, I have been an activist in the fields of education, HIV, immigrants’ rights and women’s rights, focusing mostly on stories that are unique and different. I have published my journalistic works on many Croatian news sites and for over a year, I’ve been a writer for Positive Women’s Network-USA. 

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