So many people have been inquiring about the origins of my new short documentary film called Giving Back. I'd like to explain. A few years ago, with my three children mostly all away at school and my husband's career moving us between Hong Kong and New York, I found myself contemplating the charitable work with which I have been so involved for a quarter of a century. What struck me most was thinking of my friends and acquaintances whose philanthropic endeavors most touched my heart. I decided to produce a film and a book showcasing these magnanimous friends. I knew right away that the proceeds from the book and film were to go right back to the charities, that is, 100 percent of the profits directly back to my favorite causes and to those of the people I would highlight in my film, musical CD and book.
My own life led me to philanthropy early. I am the daughter of an Irish mother from Dublin and an Indian father from Mumbai. I grew up in Mumbai, Dublin and London. I was fortunate enough to work at Mother Teresa's Asha Dan in India as a very young woman, and from then on charitable causes became a huge part of my life. It's in my blood because of Mother Teresa.
I chose 12 people and charities to feature in the Giving Back film, among them my friend Cherie Blair, whose Cherie Blair Foundation is doing so much brilliant work for the education of women around the world. I interviewed Cherie in my home in Hong Kong. That was the first vignette produced for the film. After that I decided to talk to Homayra Sellier of the Innocence in Danger group in Paris. Homayra has dedicated her life to protecting the young victims of sexual abuse. Her portion of the film is one of the most touching and gut wrenching parts of the film. Raj Loomba, founder of the Loomba charity, strictly concerned with widows who are often young military wives, is another inspiring part of the documentary. Kerry Kennedy talks about the living memorial to her father, The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice And Human Rights, which she heads. The Center realizes Bobby Kennedy's dream of a more just and peaceful world. Irish designer Clodagh thrives on her hands -- on involvement for Thorntree in Africa, dedicated to education and housing for small children in one tiny village. The others featured in the film include Steven Rockefeller and my husband Vikram Gandhi talking about about Grameen Bank, which secures microcredit loans for underprivileged women around the world.
My experience making the film has been one of the most fulfilling chapters of my life, even though I vow never to do another film. I completed a film course and worked with a studio in Bollywood, but I wound up producing, directing and hosting the Giving Back film on my own. It was a labor of love! To date the film has opened at two screenings in New York City, one hosted by Quest Magazine and the other by Cherie Blair and me along with the 85 Broads organization. Other screenings took place at Asia House in London, at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, at the United College in Wales and at Medgar Evers College of the City of New York in Brooklyn, NY. Upcoming screenings will be held in Mumbai, Paris, and Hong Kong among other venues! It is so deeply fulfilling to me to see such "good" people showcased internationally through my film.
In 2011 the Giving Back coffee table book will be published. It will feature the initial 12 charities chosen for the film, along with many others, such as the favorite charities of TV host Deborah Norville, singer Ronan Tynan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Charles and Randy Fisher, Narcisso Rodrigues, Donna Karan and many others who have truly inspired the Giving Back Foundation. None of these people just writes philanthropic checks, they are all intimately involved and committed to one particular "cause."
The documentary, a CD, and the coffee table book are simple endeavors with one simple objective: to uplift, to inspire and to empower!