Amnesty International turns 60


We stand with humanity

by Amnesty International

A stunning film with Amnesty activists in five iconic global landmarks and dramatic celestial drone art displays is released today to celebrate Amnesty International’s 60th anniversary.

An orchestral version of Peter Gabriel’s haunting human rights anthem ‘Biko’ provides the soundtrack with newly recorded vocals from The Spirituals gospel choir in London and Angelique Kidjo and Nazanin Boniadi, among others, provide the powerful narration of the ‘Ode to Amnesty’ poem written specially by Bill Shipsey for the film and now translated into twenty languages.

“Freedom Flight”, a two-minute long film produced by Art for Amnesty and Celestial, a cutting-edge drone art company, for Amnesty International France was shot on location at Plaza del Zócalo, Mexico City, the Palais de Chaillot, Paris, Sydney Opera House, Jama Masjid Mosque, New Delhi and opposite Robben Island, Cape Town.

Peter Gabriel incorporated the vocals of ‘The Spirituals’ who came together during the last year under Covid-19 as a means of reclaiming and celebrating black spirituals, composers, musicians. Due to time and Covid-19 restrictions, the singers recorded individual tracks on their smart phones and sent them to be assembled just last week.

Gabriel, an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience and longstanding champion of the human rights organization, said:

“It was a race against time but definitely worth it. The Spirituals Choir is committed to telling stories of social justice and black history to a new generation which fits very well with the inspiration in the story of Steve Biko.

“Now more than ever, we need as many people as possible to start taking injustice personally and to get involved in any way they can. Amnesty has been doing extraordinary work around the world which I believe is really important and supported for forty years, so I was very happy to be asked to help with this beautiful film.”

Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi, star of spy thriller series Homeland and currently filming for Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, provides the voiceover in English. She said:

“As an artist, it’s important for me to speak out about freedom of expression and as a woman who was born in Iran, I want to amplify the voices of the brave women who have been silenced, tortured, imprisoned and even killed in my homeland, simply for demanding their rights. Amnesty calls out their names and makes their voices stronger, along with other disenfranchised groups around the world and I salute them for that.

“I’m delighted to be able to contribute to this stunning film, marking a major milestone for Amnesty International, for whom I am an ambassador.”

Four-time Grammy Award winner and Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, Angélique Kidjo, provides the voice over in French. She said:

“Amnesty’s work, campaigning for freedom of expression and for women and girls around the world to reach their full potential, is very close to my heart and long may it continue.

“The Biko soundtrack is an inspired choice, as Steve Biko’s struggle against apartheid inspired the African continent and beyond, and is just as relevant today.”

“I am honored to be voicing the narrative for this important film, marking a significant milestone for Amnesty International, just as I was honored to receive the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award.”

Sylvie Brigot, Director of Amnesty International France, said:

“The 60th anniversary of Amnesty International is a huge milestone for the world-wide movement and we are delighted to be commemorating this moment with a truly global, ground-breaking and beautiful film. The stars in the sky across the globe represent the millions of activists around the world who make Amnesty International what it is today. And what could be a more fitting location to end the film than the Palais de Chaillot, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we are all fighting for, was adopted?”

Bill Shipsey, Founder of Art for Amnesty, who conceived the idea of the film said:

“This film combining art, music, poetry and technology is a thank you and testament to the contributions of the millions of Amnesty members present and past who have worked tirelessly for human rights over the past 60 years. We hope the film will inspire a new generation of activists to take action for human rights, become members of Amnesty International and support its important work.”

In the film, Amnesty activists ‘release’ lighted drones into the sky which join with scores of other lighted drones, representing Amnesty activists taking action around the world. These lighted drones then morph into the Picasso-designed Amnesty dove.

The giant dove then flies majestically over the locations before finally transforming into an artistic representation of the iconic Amnesty candle in barbed wire above the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.

The final shot scene of the film shows Amnesty activists in South Africa staring into the camera, with the words – We Stand With Humanity on the screen.

An ‘Ode to Amnesty’ written by Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey provides the narrative to the film, telling the story of Amnesty International’s journey since its inception in 1961. The poem has been translated into twenty languages so far including French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, German, Farsi and Bengali, giving the film a truly global reach.

The first verse refers to the original six ‘Forgotten Prisoners’ featured in an Observer article written by Amnesty International’s founder, Peter Benenson, on May 28th 1961. The second to the work that Amnesty did in the 1970s to ensure that torture was outlawed. The third to Amnesty expanding its mandate from civil and political rights to also embrace economic, social and cultural rights in 2001. The fourth reflects the current strength of Amnesty with its 10 million members and supporters. And the fifth and last, is a call to action to appeal for new members and supporters.

Freedom Flight received support and backing from Bono, the Edge and Peter Gabriel, as well as several Amnesty International sections.

Nick Kowalski, Tony Martin and John Hopkins, founders of Celestial, who created this film, are proud to be involved with the project. They said:

“Celestial is built on strong ethical values. We want to use our tech for good and place messages of hope into the sky using our ground-breaking creative technology. We believe in the Amnesty cause and this project felt like the perfect opportunity to showcase our innovation and inspire people to stand up for human rights.”

You can also read about 60 years of humanity in action


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