Coming to theatres from directors Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham comes a film about the power of the smallest person with THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS.
This documentary tells the story of children who live in Kolkata’s ghettos. The directors follow the lives of several children who are looking to find ways to improve their community, get drinking water flowing and offering young girls a life besides marriage before they are 18.
One man has stepped up to the call, Amlan Ganguly is such a man. A former attorney, Ganguly has chosen another road to reach the kids. Instead of a rescue tactic he gives them the empowerment they need to make a difference for those around them and, more importantly, for themselves.
In 1999, Ganguly started the PRAYASAM community center. Here he gives children a voice and the chance to participate in issues that affect their lives. Teaching artistic and creative ways to express these childrens feelings is inspirational. His idea of child empowerment is spreading and in 2007, Gunguly was invited by the Rockerfeller Foundation to attend the Global Urban Summit to speak on his works.
There is Salim Shekh, an eleven year old boy who has a group called Dakabuko (The Daredevils) who go through the community announcing vaccines for children and map making. His primary concern is lack of drinking water for the community.
Sikha Patra is a thirteen year old girl, best friends with Salim, also became involved and her primary concern is girls’ rights. She is also tries to help girls realize that marriage at 13 is not the only life avaiable.
Kajal is a fourteen year old girl who works in the brick field because her mother is unable. She walks through the pits with piles of bricks on her head for a $1.25 a day. As the sole wage earner of her family school is no longer a priority.
Priyanka Mandal is a fifteen year old girl who is the leader of the dance company Allhadi (Dear Ones) and is paid a small fee for doing so. The problem is she comes from an abusive family, which includes her brother and sees no hope of breaking the chain in the future.
These are just a few of the children that are a part of the following statistics: There are more than 5,500 slum communities in Kolkata, India,12% of Indian children age 5-14 are currently engaged in child labor, less than Half of all girls in India enroll in secondary school, 47% of Indian girls are married by the time they reach 18, today 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 3.4 million people die each year from a water related disease.
Think of that the next time you complain your bottled water is too warm.
FINAL WORD: This is such an amazing documentary. To watch these children find their voices in the worst of circumstances is truly uplifting. Each of these children come from a story that is moving yet instead of asking for sympathy – they ask for understanding. They go among their community to spread the word that there is hope for everyone’s future.
Salim is truly a spitfire and if he doesn’t become a politican then something is truly wrong with the world. He has a way with people, getting them to listen to what the truth is even if the truth isn’t colorful and pretty. He has a charm and humor as well which is what breaks the ice with all he comes into contact with.
Sikha is young woman who sees the future and wants to spread that inspiration to other girls. She is spunky, spirited and has no problem saying what is true. Her honesty and smile will take her far and I do so hope that she has the support needed to help in her quest for change.
Kajal completely broke my heart. This beautiful and extraordinary young woman is doing what she must to take care of her mother. She doesn’t see it as a burden but as the right thing to do. Staying in the brick yard that her grandmother worked in I am sending my thoughts that she will find what she is looking for to be able to take care of the family but in another career that gives her purpose.
Priyanka is such a lovely dancer. Ganguly saw her as the one to break free and worried so much. His advice was so meaningful and caring. It is clear this man cares for the children he works with.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS four tubs of popcorn out of five. There is nothing I was not moved by in this documentary. Starting in 2007, Monsen and Newnham decided they wanted to “make the story honest and real, to get beyond a birds-eye view of an issue or a problem. If you want to make a real change in poverty it takes time, and we wanted to show that process”.
Once the directors met Ganguly, an idea of several short films changed. “He has this unique mission, which sounds crazy to pull off, but he is absolutely dedicated to it – that is to change the aspiration level of the people he engages with. He actually teaches children to believe that they can change their communities. He says, ‘if you change your mindset, you change your surroundings’.
Take a moment and see THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS opening April 19th. It is clear to see why it is a winner from the Sundance Institute.
In the end – how far would you go to change the world?
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