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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Gabriella LoBue at 7:18PM
The HP Alliance logo

Blog posting written by Gabriella LoBue, Cinema and Photography, ’18, FLEFF Intern, Hackettstown, New Jersey.

Having grown up with the Harry Potter books and films, it’s difficult to believe that the seventh and final book was released nine years ago, and that almost five years have passed since the premiere of the last movie. Nevertheless, J. K. Rowling’s story still lives strong in the hearts and minds of her devoted fans. Among the many people who have been touched and inspired by the story of the boy who lived, Seth Soulstein co-founded an organization in 2005 that continues to keep the message and power of Harry Potter alive today.

The Harry Potter Alliance was formed after Soulstein noticed that people were generally interested in entertainment, but much less so about social change. In particular, he observed how individuals would endlessly dissect the Harry Potter books on the Internet. He then wondered if he could facilitate similar discourses surrounding real world campaigns that, at the moment, were largely being ignored.

As a first attempt to educate fans and promote activism, a parody video about the unfair labor practices of Walmart was posted to YouTube. The widespread success of this video prompted the superstore to respond and eventually change their policies. This was especially impressive at the time since social media was not nearly as influential as it remains today.

The Walmart case became the first of many successes that the Harry Potter Alliance continues to accomplish. Since then, the organization ran campaigns concerning the 2010 Haiti earthquake recovery effort, collecting books for literacy, raising funds for genocide prevention, and LGBTQ rights.

Soulstein noted the organization’s main goal to work through compassion, rather than from an antagonistic standpoint. For example, during the Not In Harry’s Name campaign, the alliance worked with Warner Brothers in order to make their business practices reflect the stories they were selling. By employing love, positivity, and collaboration, all of which are themes of the Harry Potter series, Warner Brothers was persuaded to switch to fair-trade chocolate products. In retrospect, this non-aggressive approach seems to be the most logical, since the corporations feel less attacked and are therefore more willing to cooperate.

The Harry Potter Alliance’s effectiveness can be attributed to the way it approaches these topics of interest. By appealing to existing fans of both Harry Potter and other media franchises, the organization encourages audiences to emulate the kind of work that their fictional heroes do.

Furthermore, combining storytelling with social justice taps into a preexisting passion for a fictional realm. This, in effect, draws the interest out into the nonfictional environment. After all, as Soulstein noted, “fantasy isn’t an escape from the world. It’s an invitation to go deeper into it.” 

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