Telling the story of what we do at Hostage International isn’t easy. We’re small, incredibly niche, and a lot of what we do has to stay below the radar for the safety and anonymity of those we support.
For a while, we’ve been wanting to highlight the stories of those we support through a film, but as with many charities, we know that it is essential for those who own the stories to only tell them if they want to, and in a way and on a platform that suits them.
We have often shied away from asking people to share a personal story because it can be deeply emotional and distressing. However, for others it can be cathartic and therapeutic, so it’s no wonder so many former hostages and family members go on to share their experiences in books, including Taken on Trust by our co-founder Terry Waite.
While some of those we have worked with have shared their personal experiences on our website, when it came to this film project and trying to highlight more generally what we do, we had to think creatively and work out how to do it in a way that wouldn’t cause potential re-trauma to those coming to our website looking for support, but also in a way that doesn’t sensationalise a topic which so many – particularly in some areas of media – do want to highlight and delve into, not always in a helpful or supportive way.
We wanted to have an ‘About Hostage International’ film, to help explain quickly and succinctly, what our charity does, so that people in need know a bit more about us, but also so that others may be moved to give.
Fortunately, we discovered and applied for support from a fellow charity, HelpFilm.
We knew that to show the breadth of our work, we couldn’t use just one person’s story and had decided that animation was probably going to be the best option. We were loosely inspired by the graphic novel ‘Hostage’ by Guy Delisle and by the work of Joe Sacco. We approached HelpFilm to integrate and adapt a few of our case studies in a way that would tell our story, while respecting the anonymity of those we support.
We dipped into our pot of testimonials, real life stories and experiences from staff and volunteers to try to create a real enough story which would genuinely reflect what families and former hostages, including those affected by arbitrary detention, might experience and how Hostage International can support and guide them through this extraordinary situation and beyond.
We couldn’t have done this without the support and professional guidance from the team at HelpFilm and are hugely grateful for their support.
Alan, Helpfilm Founder, said: “When Hostage International approached us we knew it was a charity we wanted to get behind.
“It is small, yet able to support many people around the world, at a time in their lives when it is most traumatic and harrowing.
“We didn’t know of any charities offering the same sort of support for families who have lost their loved ones in this way, therefore we wanted to be a part of this storytelling journey.
“The team at HI were really creative in their ideas and also meticulous at making sure they remain sensitive to their audience. We have really enjoyed seeing this project unfold and look forward to seeing its impact in the months after its release!’
Hostage International is a unique charity delivering essential emotional and practical support to those affected by the kidnap or illegal detention of a loved one, and to hostages and detainees after their release.