Hegarty’s hunger story hits home in powerful premiere
You could have heard a grain of rice drop at yesterday’s SAWA Seminar. The world premiere of Sir John Hegarty’s 60-second cinema advertisement calling the world to tackle global hunger was met by several seconds of silence. And then spontaneous applause.
“And you don’t get that easily from a Cannes audience,” said Cheryl Wannell, CEO of SAWA, the Global Cinema Advertising Association, whose annual seminar has become a platform for launching, supporting and promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This year, SAWA has partnered with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to support the SDG Zero Hunger. The result is 'Feed Our Future', a powerful new campaign conceived by Hegarty and The Garage Soho, directed by Lynne Ramsay and produced by Somesuch & Co. The film, released in cinemas in more than 25 countries from September, focuses on the potential that is lost every time a child dies of hunger.
And it doesn’t make for comfortable viewing. The story starts at a bustling news conference, with journalists vying to interview a female medical researcher whose breakthrough is set to change the world. Only there is no researcher or medical miracle: in reality, the woman who could have saved millions of lives lost her own at the age of eight — of hunger. The audience in then promoted to help create a world with Zero Hunger by downloading WFP’s mobile app ShareTheMeal.
Talking about the inspiration behind 'Feed Our Future', Hegarty said: “To be a bit provocative, I think a lot of the charity work you see in Cannes is about making people feel good rather than doing good. We knew this had to be something genuinely effective; something that would stand out and be different. But most of all, it had to embrace everybody. I wanted to show that hunger could affect you and your children and your grandchildren, because it’s about losing human capital.”
Hegarty was joined on the conference stage by HRH Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, who has done much to champion WFP’s efforts to provide good nutrition to mothers and babies, Corinne Woods, WFP’s chief marketing officer and outgoing Cannes Lions chairman Terry Savage, who served as a moderator for the first time in his 35-year relationship with the festival.
Princess Sarah Zeid said working with Hegarty on 'Feed Our Future' had been a revelation in terms of “the thought process, care and attention that goes into moving people”. She added: “The UN has the most important stories to tell. Every day, its staff are performing Herculean acts of courage and good will, and yet it has struggled to make people understand its work or and make them care about it. But John, with three words — 'Feed Our Future' — has communicated volumes. The film shows that, if we don’t do more to feed the world, we’ll all be diminished and we’ll all feel the impact. Productivity will fall and insecurity will increase, along with wars and climate change. At the centre of all these things are nutrition and wellbeing.”
As to the on-the-ground impact of such campaigns, Woods cited several statistics: every year, the UN spends $7bn feeding 91 million people of the 124 million that are on the edge of starvation. “Governments act because of the will of their people,” she added. “Campaigns like this make people act, which not only makes a difference to political will but also helps us to raise the money we need from individuals. So yes, they make a very real difference — but only if they are done as well as this.”
Wannell made the point that the cinema medium is the only platform to have stepped up to support Feed Our Future. More need to join cinema advertisers in supporting WFP and “making a significant and sustained effort to help minimise the impact of hunger”, she added.
When asked what had persuaded him to break 33 years of neutrality to take to the conference stage, Savage said: “Because I’ve got kids. If you actually think about hunger through the lens of your children, how could you not do it?”