IOM Boxer Punches Up Interest in 2018 Global Migration Film Festival

Global Migration Film Festival, Others

Geneva – With preparations beginning for the UN Migration Agency’s third annual Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF) to take place in December this year, IOM senior spokesperson Joel Millman this week decided to take matters in hand and work to raise interest – and over USD 1,200 in targeted funding – for the event.

In fact, he worked with both hands – in a boxing ring.

On Thursday, 24 May, Millman joined more than a dozen male and female amateur boxers in a gala event staged at Geneva’s Starling Hotel, where he met his opponent, Bertrand Bricheux, a Swiss boxer who works for a money-management firm. The event, titled White Collar Boxing Switzerland, attracted more than 300 fight fans to raise money for a variety of charities. Combatants each were urged to select a Geneva-based charity of their own to sponsor. Millman selected IOM’s 2018 Global Migration Film Festival.

“It was kind of a no brainer,” the IOM boxer explained. “We all work so hard for months getting this festival into shape. So it made sense to add the months of boxing training to the timeline.”

To raise interest in the festival, Millman worked with his IOM Media and Communications team to produce a video demonstrating his preparation for the 24 May bout, together with instructions on how IOM staff, and boxing fans everywhere, could make donations to the GMFF via an IOM website. Funds were collected via the home page, allowing donors who are also US income tax payers to claim a charitable deduction on their 2018 returns next year.

The video received hundreds of visits in its first few days, and helped raise over USD 1,000 for the GMFF during the opening week of the campaign. USA for IOM will accept donations through the end of the month. To view the video, click here

IOM’s Global Migration Film Festival was launched in 2016 and has been enjoyed by thousands worldwide. Besides gala screenings in Geneva and New York, in 2017 more than 90 IOM missions in Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and the Americas hosted local versions of the GMFF screening films produced by film-makers where the missions are located, in some places quite creatively. In Niger, the IOM Mission produced a veritable caravanserai of migration film screenings, hosting events across a 3,000 square kilometre region, including several in migrant transit camps.

Plans already are underway for missions in over 100 locations to add their special magic to the film festival, which attracts short films, features, documentaries and works of animation. Attention to details like securing screening rights and being mindful of what missions worldwide do is a battle as unrelenting as anything seen in a boxing ring.

Expenses can mount quickly, which is one reason IOM co-workers felt gratified by Millman’s efforts.

“I was so pleased my colleague decided to take this initiative to support the 2018 Global Migration Film Festival. He’s been boxing a long time and knows what he’s doing,” said Amanda Nero, the GMFF’s director, who this week was working in her native Brazil. “I used to call him gordinho, which means ‘fatty’ in Portuguese. But no more.”

Nero added her colleague has a new nickname: farofa, Portuguese for the manioc flour Brazilians enjoy as a garnish on traditional rice-and-black bean stews.

Migrants figured prominently in the action Thursday night. Among the white-collar combatants were migrants from Canada, Albania, Colombia, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Sweden, Iraqi Kurdistan and the USA. “For me it’s about the movement, and freedom,” said Reshaw Palinuro, a former refugee from Iraq who lives today in Stockholm. “I love teaching children, especially girls, that they can be strong and stand up for themselves."

Ms. Palinuro boxed Julie Gauthier, a Canadian who works for a Swiss wealth-management firm, who won a close decision in the night's final bout.

As for the bout IOM’s staffer participated in, it also went the full three rounds, with the IOM fighter being awarded second place. "In other words, I lost," Mr. Millman explained with a weary, but relieved, grin upon descending the ring. "But I was glad for the chance to box one more time at my advanced age, and to do something that helps the Global Migration Film Festival. It was a great effort by all."

For more information please contact Amanda Nero, Global Migration Film Festival, Tel: +41 22 717 9482 Email:

  • IOM's resident pugilist Joel Millman boxing for charity in Geneva. Photo: IOM/N.Oren 

  • IOM's resident pugilist Joel Millman boxing for charity in Geneva. Photo: IOM/N.Oren

  • IOM's resident pugilist Joel Millman boxing for charity in Geneva. Photo: IOM/N.Oren