Talking the United Nations Associated Films Festival with Host Grace Byrne

This Saturday, September, 21st, Yellow Pad Sessions will be hosting the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF), titled Images & Nations at The Mccord Museum. This festival aims to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The festival was conceived in 1998 by Film Critic and Educator Jasmine Bojic. The documentary films screened are from international film makers covering such issues as human rights, environmental themes, women’s Issues, refugee protection, homelessness, racism, universal education, war and peace.
At The Movies had the pleasure of interviewing Yellow Pad Sessions founder and executive director, Grace Sebeh Byrne. Born in Egypt and raised in Montreal, Grace is described as a lover of all arts and culture. We had five questions to ask about the festival and its platform happening this Saturday.
Remi: It must be a huge opportunity for Yellow Pad Sessions to be hosting this film festival, tell us about how this opportunity came to be and what it means for Yellow Pad Sessions?
Grace Byrne: “I discovered UNAFF last year while researching festivals for another one I was involved with. I was immediately struck by its mission, values and 22-year track record. I personally have always been involved in the arts while maintaining an eye on human rights issues. I found the nexus of art and social commentary a perfect calling for me. Through this festival, I am able to offer a programme that encompasses both these passions and I founded an NPO specifically for this. Our motto: ART FOR SOCIAL CHANGE!”
R: With this festival running since it was conceived in 1998, what is the importance of having this festival in 2019 to take on such topical issues of the day like environmental themes, children’s health issues and refugee protection?
GB: “The UN Sustainable Development Goals were created so that the global community can not only create awareness and education about these issues, but also to take concrete steps to make changes for all 17 goals on a global scale. Since the creation of UNAFF back in 1998, and now more than ever, the issues are pressing and urgent. Look at climate change for instance. We now know that unless our countries and governments address climate change, we are headed for disastrous implications, some say detrimental ones. The science is there. Take a look at this infographic with some data as an example…”
“Science has shown that wealth disparity can lead to a lack of education leading towards poverty and so on. Everything is connected and we are all part and parcel of a giant web. If one area is diminished, it pulls down other aspects that make up the question of quality of life for everyone on this planet.”
R: Being a fan of documentary films for the entertaining and educational factor, what are some of the highlights of this year’s festival selection?
GB: “I really do love all four films and seeing that we are a one-day festival, this allowed us to curate a rich and award-nominated lineup of films. We were very cognisant of choosing movies that touched upon global themes while resonating with us Montrealer’s more locally. Just as a quick example, Through My Eyes: Hani’s Journey takes us from Homs to Saskatchewan and now to Montreal with Hani’s presence at the festival. Soufra is the story of refugees from a Lebanon camp and it is linked to our very own refugee caterers in Montreal named Les Filles Fattoush. They will also be present at the festival offering and serving us delicious Middle Eastern food and they would love for you to come say hello. As a curator, I’m passionate about making links with a variety of different sources seemingly disparate but ultimately that make up a giant puzzle of ideas with an underlying theme. Making connections, essentially.”
R: As the festival is only a one-day event how can audience members continue to get involved or seek out this year’s festival selection?
GB: “It’s simple: head over to for the detailed programme, times and trailers. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for other upcoming events and articles about ART FOR SOCIAL CHANGE.”
R: We always like to leave the last question in the interview as a fun one, what is your favourite film of 2019 so far or one that you are championing that people have to see?
GB: “I really did love Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m a sucker for all things Freddie! LOL.”
We would like to thank Grace Byrne for taking the time for this interview. To find out more about this event and Yellow Pad Sessions go under the events and festivals tab at the link above.
Remi is the host of At The Movies which features everything new and noteworthy in the world of cinema. The show goes live every Tuesday at 8:00 AM.