Lionsgate founder Frank Giustra on Monday criticized U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump for stoking tension over a growing global refugee crisis.
"There's really no excuse for that rhetoric and behavior. It's politics and politics has become very ugly," Giustra told The Hollywood Reporter after Trump called for Syrian refugees to be blocked from entering the U.S. and a wall to be built along the southern U.S. border. "It's sad that intelligent people who should know better are taking this approach."
Giustra and his Radcliffe Foundation has aimed to ease Europe's refugee crisis by this week opening a new housing facility in Thessaloniki, Greece to accommodate an initial 160 people, including children and their families, fleeing war-torn regions in the Middle East.
To raise awareness about the global refugee crisis, Giustra is also offering a $20,000 prize to the winner of a "Call to Action" short film competition at the upcoming Vancouver Film Festival. The competition jury includes Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, pop star Sarah McLachlan, veteran Canadian TV exec Ivan Fecan and director Atom Egoyan.
Giustra's criticism of the U.S. refugee debate comes amid mounting anxiety over recent terrorist attacks in France and Germany. "What we as Canadians see south of the border is very sad and very discouraging. These people promoting these ideas know better, they know what the facts are, but they are playing on the ignorance and fear of people for self-gain," Giustra said.
The Canadian power broker made his fortune in mining before launching Lionsgate Entertainment in 1997, and more recently acquiring a major stake in Canadian indie producer Thunderbird Films and executive producing Alcon Entertainment's Blade Runner sequel, to star Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Robin Wright.
Giustra also runs a charitable foundation with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. He argued American politicians turning their back on the global refugee crisis can take a lesson from Canada, where the federal government recently welcomed 25,000 Syrians fleeing their war-torn country.
"Canadians have stepped up to the plate in a very big way, led by our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau. What he did in welcoming the refugees at the airport when they came in and arranging (acceptance) for 25,000 people who were pre-screened and then screened again, that does work," Giustra said. Working with the Greek ministry of migration, Giustra's Radcliffe Foundation plans to eventually house 800 refugees at its new housing facility in northern Greece, in part to inspire others to also provide a humanitarian response to a growing international crisis.
"We stepped in to get something done and to show people it can be done. There are solutions. It lies in a private-public partnership. It's the future of a lot of humanitarian work," he explained. And Giustra's short film competition, to be ultimately judged by the public via social media, also aims to change hearts and minds about the world's refugee crisis.
"We know how powerful a medium film can be for education and inspiration, and we want to use that ability of filmmakers to create this means of creating awareness, and educating people with a call to action," he said. The winning short film will screen at the upcoming Vancouver film festival.