Advantage Amritraj

Ashok Amritraj has collaborated with the United Nations on a TV series that brings together filmmakers from India, Singapore and the Middle East.

Indian-born Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj and the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Robert Orr, had been discussing the possibility of creatively collaborating on a project and the idea of a philanthropic TV series, Chance Of a Lifetime, came up.

It brings together documentary filmmakers from this part of the world to create documentaries on nine priority global issues of the UN, like universal education, HIV AIDS, poverty and hunger, child mortality and access to water.

“Organisations from the Middle East, India and Singapore picked out two men and two women from each country who were flown to Chennai in April where they filmed the series for four weeks,” says Amritraj.

The 12 participants first had to make a one-minute film on the subject given. After the elimination process, there was a five-minute documentary to be made, followed by a 10-minute film in the finale. Since this is the first time the UN has collaborated on a full TV series, the contestants had access to the archival library of the various UN organisations like UNESCO, UNICEF etc.

Additionally, senior UN personnel communicated through Skype with the contestants during the production. Some big Hollywood stars like George Clooney and UN Messenger of Peace in 2009, American musician-singer Stevie Wonder will also be seen on the show associating with their causes, giving out a humanitarian message.

“The winning entry was screened at the UN, followed by a questionand-answer session with the team, and then they were flown to Cannes for a dinner where they met many Hollywood stars and filmmakers,” says Amritraj who is in India for the New Year with his mother before he flies out to New Orleans to join Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon for the shoot of Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes.

Chance of a Lifetime will air from March 2014, as seven half-hour shows over seven weeks. He added: “The idea was to bring filmmakers together and cross boundaries, creatively and educationally, reaching out to millions across the world. Next time I’d like to do something that involves India in a larger way.”