Blanchett, Knightly, other movie stars spot­light plight of refugees

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Jamey Keaten

GENEVA >> What would you take along if you were forced to be­come a refugee? Cate Blanchett and other big-name movie stars are lend­ing their faces to a video that en­treats view­ers to imag­ine what they would do to sur­vive if they had to flee war.

The Os­car-win­ning ac­tress and United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees good­will am­bas­sador head­lines the video re­leased Mon­day. En­ti­tled “What They Took With Them,” the text in it was drawn from a rhyth­mic poem of that name by Jenifer Toksvig that was based on real refugees’ ac­counts.

Over an open­ing im­age of a he­li­copter drop­ping bombs and a cloud from an ex­plo­sion, the words “If you had to flee your home, what would you take?” flash across the screen. Pho­to­graphs and video footage of refugees and war ap­pear over the text.

Read­ing shoul­der-toshoul­der inside a stu­dio, Blanchett and ac­tors in­clud­ing Keira Knight­ley, Stan­ley Tucci, Chi­we­tel Ejio­for and Jesse Eisen­berg rat­tle off the per­sonal pos­ses­sions flee­ing refugees of­ten pack in haste: phones, crack­ers, wa­ter, di­a­pers, money and iden­tity pa­pers.

But the list in­cludes lessob­vi­ous items: a sa­cred book, prayer beads, a rug, a Vir­gin Mary neck­lace, a cup, house keys, even face­whiten­ing cream.

“I want my skin to be white, and my hair to be spiked. I don’t want them to know I’m a refugee,” read Ejio­for. “What if some­body spots me, and calls the po­lice be­cause I’m il­le­gal? But not if I’m white. That’s right, isn’t it?”

The script also high­lights the desperate sur­vival tac­tics some refugees re­sort to dur­ing their flights. “And I car­ried my vir­gin­ity out at sea. We rubbed our­selves in vomit, so the pi­rates wouldn’t touch us,” Knight­ley reads.

Last year, more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple — mostly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — mi­grated to Europe, nearly all by cross­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea in over­loaded boats.

The United Na­tions says 65 mil­lion were dis­placed world­wide at the end of 2015, eas­ily set­ting a new post-war record.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is set to con­vene a sum­mit on refugees dur­ing the 71st ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly later this month.

On the Web: http://www. unhcr.org/refugee­day/ what-they-took-with-them/

JORDI MATAS — UNHCR VIA AP

In this un­dated handout photo re­leased by UNHCR on Mon­day, Sept 12 2016, UNHCR good­will am­bas­sador Cate Blanchett, cen­ter, and camp man­ager Hovig Etye­mezian, right, walk at Zaatari refugee camp as they visit Syr­ian refugees in Jor­dan. Cate Blanchett and some other big-name movie stars are speak­ing out about the plight of refugees in a stark, short video that en­treats view­ers to imag­ine what they’d do if they had to flee war.

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