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Comic Relief to cut back on celebrities says Richard Curtis

Albertina Lloyd
Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
Writer Richard Curtis poses for photographers upon arrival at the World premiere of the film 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again', in London Monday, July 16, 2018. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Comic Relief is to send less celebrities abroad following the criticism that stars such as Stacey Dooley were bing portrayed as “white saviours”.

Film director and co-founder of the charity Richard Curtis addressed MPs at the House of Commons International Development Committee, admitting that “the sadder the film, the more money it makes”.

Love Actually director Curtis said: "We heard the criticism, we were doing stuff to address it, we're accelerating the way that we address it."

Read more: Stacey Dooley: David Lammy not interested in having a conversation over "white saviour" row

Asked by MPs what changes would be made the 62-year-old filmmaker said: "We're not strong on that yet. I imagine as we go into this new future, that will not be based on celebrities going abroad. I suspect we will start that new initiative not going that way.

"And then on the TV, I think we have to do what we think is best, and I think it will be heading in the direction of not using [celebrities abroad], and particularly being very careful to give voices to people abroad."

The charity came under fire earlier this year when Strictly Come Dancing winner Dooley was pictured holding a young child in Uganda whilst shooting a film about the ongoing battle with malaria in the country.

Labour MP David Lammy wrote on Twitter: The world does not need any more white saviours. As I've said before, this just perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes. Let's instead promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have serious debate.”

Speaking this week Dooley said she was willing to sit down and discuss the issue with David Lammy, but that he had not appeared interested having a conversation.

She said: “£63 million is going to save countless children’s lives. And I understand that you have to portray Africa - you need to show the entrepreneurial kids that are doing really well in Lagos and Busia, and this middle class existence in Africa.

“But that’s not going to make people pick up the phone and donate 20 quid.”

Read more: Comic Relief defends Stacey Dooley over David Lammy's 'white saviour' comments, says MP snubbed them

Curtis admitted the charity wanted to tell success stories, but that sad stories were more likely to prompt viewers to donate money.

He said: "We are trying to do everything we can to raise the maximum amount of money for our projects internationally.

"But if it is felt that Comic Relief is so influential in terms of image that you start to send out the wrong image, and that people who live in this country with African backgrounds feel as though they're in some way demeaned or negatively affected by Comic Relief, then we really have to listen to that.

"What I'm searching for year by year is new ways of telling the stories. Traditionally, the sadder the film, the more money it makes, but I'm sure there must be a solution where you show such radiant joy and success that that would encourage you to give more money."