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As we come to the end of a very strange and often very dark year, we're reflecting on a lot of things and taking stock of what's helped us get through. For visionary author Neil Gaiman and visionary director Guillermo del Toro, two things come to the fore in the kind of year-end reflection: The importance of helping others and, of course, the importance of finding hope in stories. In a new video conversation between the two titans of fantasy, they stressed the importance of both.
Gaiman and Del Toro, longtime friends who've also worked on projects together in the past, joined together this week to support "Films of Hope," an initiative hosted by IMDb to raise funds for COVID-19 relief that will specifically go to help refugees. Gaiman has personally served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for several years now, and this endeavor also functions as a partnership with them to help people who have become even more vulnerable in 2020.
"People fleeing war, those having to leave their homes and cities are even more vulnerable than they have ever been before," Gaiman said. "The refugees I have met are people who inspire hope and as we face a pandemic together, it's so good to talk about themes of hope, inspiration and solidarity."
In the eight-minute video above, Gaiman and Del Toro have a virtual conversation in which they each pick and discuss three hopeful films, ranging from the predictable choices to some far less predictable ones. Del Toro's selections include The Shawshank Redemption, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Wizard of Oz, while Gaiman selected Tampop, Brazil, and Beauty and the Beast (1946), which he cited as a particularly powerful example of achievement amid adversity because of the film's post-World War II production on a shoestring budget.
In discussing Brazil, Terry Gilliam's dystopian classic, Gaiman and Del Toro both acknowledged the somewhat unexpected hope of the film, but explained why it belongs on a list of hopeful stories.
"It's about holding to your dreams and not letting the forces that would break you break you," Gaiman said.
Del Toro added, "It changed my life, and [when I saw it] I thought 'This embodies what I want to talk about, this absolutely horrible struggle that is being yourself.' Every day we struggle to exist."
The link in the tweet above will take you to a fundraising page for the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which will go directly to support the WHO's work around the world "to track and understand the spread of the virus; to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate research and development of a vaccine and treatments for all who need them."
So, give if you can, and of course take a little time this December to watch a film like It's a Wonderful Life.