film production + social action


‘Wiring the Amazon’

This article by Web Director, Michael Kleiman, was originally published in the New York Times OpDocs Opinion Section.

This Op-Doc video chronicles the four-year struggle to get a remote Peruvian village connected with the outside world. I began filming the project in 2009, while making a feature-length documentary film about the global spread of information technology. I was following the work of One Laptop per Child (O.L.P.C.), a United States-based nonprofit that has designed inexpensive laptops for primary education. The organization is particularly active in Peru, where the government has purchased and distributed hundreds of thousands of O.L.P.C.’s laptops to its poorest communities. One such village is Palestina, deep in the Amazon rain forest. It has only 65 people.

To get there, I took an Air Force cargo flight that departed Lima only every 15 days. The plane dropped me in the regional capital city of Puerto Esperanza, in the middle of pristine jungle. From there, I took a 10-hour boat ride down the Purus River to the small village. Palestina has no electricity, no running water and no roads.

I spent three months over the course of a year in Palestina. During that time, I documented the approximately two dozen laptops given to the primary school students, as well as a solar-powered satellite dish that provided wireless Internet access to the village. While there was no formal electrical grid in Palestina, most households had small car batteries charged by solar panels. At night, the schoolchildren charged their computers using these batteries.

Halfway through my stay, the first telephone was installed, offering another opportunity to document a major milestone in Palestina’s technological development. Suddenly, the tiny village in the middle of the jungle had multiple means of communicating with the rest of the world.

While this transition offers many reasons for hope as we consider our shared digital future, various hurdles the village experienced remind us how complicated it can be to bring connectivity to such isolated locations. The O.L.P.C. program has received mixed grades in terms of educational gains and, with no quick fix to simple technical problems, Palestina’s technological evolution has been riddled with setbacks and derailments. This Op-Doc raises many questions about how we fulfill our responsibility to the world’s innumerable villages like Palestina and the importance of understanding their needs and desires.

Download or Rent Web on VimeoOTT

Download The Last Survivor on VimeoOTT

WEB World Premiere

We’re thrilled to announce that our documentary film, Web, will be having its world premiere at the DOC NYC Film Festival on Saturday, November 16th at 2:00pm at the IFC Center in Manhattan. The Michaels will be there for a Q&A after the film.

It’s been a long and unforgettable journey working on this project over the last four years and we’re so very excited to finally share it with the world. We know geography will force some of you to miss the premiere but we hope that many of the New Yorkers can join us. For those who can’t make it to Saturday’s screening, there is a second screening being held on Tuesday, November 19th at 5:00pm also at the IFC Center.

You can find details about the film and buy tickets here.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and months as Web starts touring. Follow us on instagram, twitter and facebook for updates!

See you at the Movies!

Transparent & Accountable Government is a Human Right

As part of its Transparency & Accountability Program, the Results for Development Institute (R4D) teamed up with Righteous Pictures to produce a series of short films that document the work of three local non-governmental organizations in Uganda and India.  The goal is for the NGOs to utilize these advocacy films as tools for engagement — to educate their communities about their transparency and accountability work, to attract more community participation and to raise visibility on the issues facing each community.

The second film in the series entitled, “Addressing Teacher Absenteeism,” launched today and highlights the work of ANPPCAN, The African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect in Uganda.

Uganda made education a human right for its citizens. In one typical rural district of Uganda almost half of all teachers were absent on any given school day, denying children their right to an education. Instead of blaming teachers and shaming them for laziness, ANPPCAN looked to the children to experiment with a radical solution—training a few student leaders in each school to take attendance of everyone, including teachers.

Check out the video below about ANPPCAN’s student monitoring program, the second of our three-part video series on Transparency & Accountability Program participants.

To learn more visit about ANPPCAN’s monitoring program click here.

Stay tuned next week to learn about the work of another TAP participant that is bringing supply-chain issues to the attention of the Ugandan Government’s free medicines distribution service.

And, in case you missed it, read coverage from Mashable on the first video, about one group’s use of mobile phones to address health worker absenteeism.

Jane Goodall and Social Activism

“Why do you want to help the world so much?” This question was boldly posed to Dr. Jane Goodall by an eight-year-old boy. Dr. Goodall was standing on stage before an audience who had just watched the documentary Jane’s Journey in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Dr. Goodall’s life is certainly worthy of a documentary and this documentary is certainly worth watching.

In the 1960s, Dr. Goodall travelled to Tanzania at the age of 26 – she was armed with a passion for Africa, a strong will and an independent mind. With the help of renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey, Jane began her now famous career as a behavioral researcher of wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania.

Jane lived a secluded life, eventually marrying a photographer and filmmaker from the National Geographic Magazine. They raised their son in the Tanzanian forest, untouched for the most part by the outside world. However, times could not be locked out for long and Jane could not ignore the everincreasing danger of modern development and environmental destruction. In response, she decided to devote all her energy to saving our endangered planet and became a global activist, using the fame she had acquired in the Western media as “the chimpanzee lady in the African bush” to leverage influence.

45 years later, Jane is not only a UN Messenger of Peace but she is also the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, the youth movement, “Roots and Shoots”, which now has thousands of members in over 100 countries and countless awards. Jane’s Journey, shows Dr. Goodall’s relentless travels, her efforts to campaign for chimpanzees, environmental protection and well, yes, for a better world.

So back to Dar Es Salaam, there I was, sitting in the dark audience in this small Tanzanian theatre listening to Dr. Goodall, and yet finding myself engulfed in my daily worries and frustrated about my inability to impart any influence on the course of the world, the global financial system, war or the Millennium Development Goals. I was however able to find some comfort in the knowledge that Jane sometimes feels the same way. The documentary showed her challenges, her loneliness and her personal struggles. She overcame these concerns by constantly reminding herself of the greater mission, what it was pushing her forward: the necessity to safeguard the survival of her chimpanzees. This idea of resorting to your core motivation is what I took away from the movie and the night. Jane expressed this idea wonderfully herself in saying, “where your passion lies, that is where you make the most difference.”

By Katharina Neureiter


Katharina Neureiter sends her dispatches from Tanzania, Africa, where she is working as a consultant. Before venturing to a continent where everything seems to be forward looking, bright and vibrant, Katharina graduated with an MSc from the London School of Economics specialising in colonial history, war cultures and genocide. She has worked and/or travelled in Nepal, South East Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe – always in pursuit of adventures and stories. You can check out more of her thoughts and experiences at



How to Learn About Starting a Revolution

By Liz Warren

Lesson 1. Visit the reRun Gastropub Theater in DUMBO and purchase a ticket to their latest film How to Start a Revolution.

Lesson 2. Walk through the retro themed restaurant and bar (stop and have a drink if you’re there early enough) and enter the theater in the back. If you’ve purchased a ticket in advance they’ll look it up for you on their computerized attendance list.

Lesson 3: Chat with the friendly bartenders and quench your thirst by choosing from a panoply of specialty Belgian beers. *Note if you aren’t ready to order right away skip to Lesson 5. They won’t mind.

Lesson 4: Order popcorn smothered with duck fat, brown butter, bacon fat, or olive oil and spiced with paprika, garlic, or herb salt and an extra topping of love.

Lesson 5: Revisit your childhood and take a seat in one of the minivan bucket seats or benches. Meanwhile sip your beer and wait from them to hand deliver your warm, delicious, salty popcorn.

Lesson 6: Sit back and wait for this inspirational film to begin.

Lesson 7: Stop drinking beer, get out your notepad, and listen to Harvard Professor Gene Sharp’s instructions on how to start a revolution.

If you haven’t already guessed, besides number 7, these lessons summarize my most recent Thursday night where I watched the film How to start a Revolution. As uprisings sweep the globe, few have heard of heard of the mastermind behind the success: Gene Sharp. But he’s featured in this award-winning documentary currently being shown at reRun Gastropub theater. 84, frail, and humble in demeanor, Sharp spends much of the film tending to his orchids and is unwilling to take any credit for these revolutions. Although his Nobel prize winning handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation has been translated into 40 languages and is said to have inspired uprisings in Eastern Europe, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, Sharp maintains, “oh no. It is the people taking part in these struggles who deserve the credit. Not me.” He’s right in a certain sense. Those who participate in protests exude commendable bravery, but Sharp’s 101 simple lessons provide the framework every successful protest needs: a plan. As I mentioned, I didn’t follow lesson 7 so I’ll leave it at that. Unfortunately I attended the last showing of How to Start a Revolution at reRun on Thursday, but it sounds like they’ve put out a Current TV version. Look for a show time here. Or just go see another flick, reRun’s lineup is filled with compelling indie films, and eat some of their delicious popcorn for me.


This blog is the premiere post for our newest intern, Liz Warren. Since she can remember, Liz has been documenting her stories in countless journals, notes, and scraps of paper which now collect dust in her mother’s garage. In recent years she transitioned this passion into the virtual world of documentary making and blogging. After spending two years working as a teacher and encouraging children to share their stories in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, she’s thrilled to now live amongst hot water, live music, good wine, and a panoply of inspiring change-makers in New York City. She currently studies International Affairs as a graduate student at the New School for Public Engagement.

Our Classroom Action Project is HERE!

Today is an exciting day: the official launch of The Last Survivor Classroom Action Project, or LSCAP as it has become known around the RP offices.

We chose to launch LSCAP today to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day – an international memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust – in order to look back and reflect on the atrocities of the past but also to look forward and do what we can to educate the next generation about genocide prevention.

Last year, we began working with Kim Birbrower of Big Picture Instructional Design, and former Director of Education for the Shoah Foundation Institute, to author The Last Survivor’s official educational resource guide – including classroom discussion material,  lesson plans and community service projects for students to participate in the program outside of the school setting. We couldn’t be more pleased or proud with how the educational resource guide has turned out!

The goal of LSCAP is to expose young people to the issues of genocide prevention through the compelling stories presented in The Last Survivor and follow this exposure with the tools and contacts they need to get involved and take action. Lessons range from “Making Sense of the Past” to “Rebirth, Forgiveness and Change” and culminate in the Social Action and Community Service Projects that have been carefully designed to inspire and motivate students to take action outside the classroom.

For all of us who have worked on the film and outreach campaign, we couldn’t be more excited that we are finally at a place in the film’s life where we can focus our attention on its educational value. This is where we had always envisioned the film’s real impact to lie.

Adding to our excitement is the fact that for a limited time, we are able to offer the film and accompanying programs to members of the educational community at little or no cost – whether it be a teacher workshop, a school event or a community program.

We hope that you will share in our enthusiasm and will visit to learn more!

Humanitarian Hip Hop

By Evan Pheiffer

I recently sat down with Dan Cwirka near NYU to discuss the origins and development of Humanitarian Notes, an NGO that promotes AIDS awareness in Namibia, Liberia and Ghana – through the distribution of socially conscious hip-hop. A novel idea, indeed!

Dan was already well into his second year of service with the Peace Corps when he had his Saul-to-Damascus moment on a rural bus in the Namibian outback. Perturbed, if not downright disgruntled, by the prospect of another eight hour-ride to the tune of blaring dunces, he was struck by a simple realization. He realized that bus drivers enjoyed a complete monopoly on their audiences’ attention – particularly that of the youth. Adolescents devour all that flows from the lips and pens of their favorite artists. Why not capitalize on this by combining good music with a relevant and powerful message?

Dan contacted his friend Clive who owned a major record shop in Windhoek, the nation’s capital, and who already had a foot in the door to much of the city’s musical scene. After several months of meeting artists and managers, Dan and a fellow Peace Corps member, Amy, had succeeded in building a reasonable base: roughly 12-14 contributing artists per album per country, with each artist agreeing to write one new song for Humanitarian Notes’ album. Incidentally, their launch coincided with both World AIDS Day and the Namibian Music Awards – the latter of which donated both TV and radio plugs for them to promote their innovative approach to music and social consciousness. Upon leaving, they left 1,000 CDs not only with radio stations, cabbies and bus-drivers, but also those most at risk of AIDS, such as long-distance truck drivers. After a successful run in Namibia, they expanded to Liberia the following year.

The three albums sponsored by Humanitarian Notes include tracks in Oshiwambo, Demara/Nama and Afrikaans (Namibia), Kpelle and Dan (Liberia); Hausa, a West African hybrid lingua franca, Ewe, Akon and Ga (Ghana), as well as English (all three). From the embryo of AIDS prevention, these collaborative artists have addressed all manners of social issues, from women’s empowerment and continuing education to monogamy and abstinence amongst the youth.

On December 6th Dan held his fifth anniversary party at Nuyorican Poets Café in the East Village. As for further projects, Dan has Durban, South Africa on his mind…

Music, even with a message, is fine and dandy – but what about Humanitarian Notes merits special attention? For one, it substantiates the notion of a vibrant, transnational civil society that bypasses borders and bureaucrats alike in bringing people and developmental solutions together. Sent by the American government to combat the spread of AIDS, these former Peace Corps workers found their efforts unrequited and ineffectual. Once inspired to take an alternate path, however, Dan and Amy began to make considerably better inroads in getting their initial message (awareness and prevention) to a much larger – and more understanding – audience. While the extent to which Humanitarian Notes’ collaborative CDs have made an impact on preventing the spread of AIDS cannot be measured, it is clear that Dan’s efforts have gotten people talking. And singing.

And that is a start that is hard to argue with.

Listen to music from Humanitarian Notes here.


A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Evan has studied in Washington, New York, London and Paris, worked in Buenos Aires and Calcutta and lived in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Latin American, the Indian Continent and the Middle East. A historian by trade, he hopes to write, travel, talk and take pictures for a living.

Featured Project: Dhamma Brothers

We are kicking off our monthly featured project for 2012 with Dhamma Brothers, a documentary film by Jenny Phillips. Phillips, who founded the Freedom Behind Bars Foundation, filmed what happened in an Alabama maximum security prison when Vipassana meditation was introduced to the prisoners. Men who were imprisoned for some of the most heinous crimes had to spent 10 straight days in silent meditation within the prison. Check out the trailer, then watch the film to see what happened before, during and after those 10 days.

Righteous Pictures is working with the director to build out the online community with the goal of driving awareness and increasing the number of prison meditation programs and volunteers within those programs. We have helped her update the website, build and grow the Facebook page, and become familiar with Twitter and YouTube. This Spring, Dhamma Brothers will premiere on Oprah’s OWN network. So follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find out exactly when!

Phillips also wrote a book called Letters from The Dhamma Brothers to accompany the film. The book consists of letters written from the prisoners to Jenny after the 10 day program and filming had ended. The letters provide intimate access to the thoughts, dreams and challenges the Dhamma Brothers possess.



The Sudan Canvas Project – Where Art and Action Mingle

By Evan Pfeiffer

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with seasoned artist Cynthia Davis, on how she made the transition into doing art for a particular purpose. Her story is not only unique but should be an inspiration to all of us on how we can take the skills we have and apply them to a cause in need.

Back in early 2008, Cynthia Davis became interested in why her high school son was lobbying to create awareness for Darfur in Washington.  Davis, a seasoned artist best known for her work in decorative arts, began researching the situation in Darfur. Before long she encountered Gabriel Bol Deng, a lost boy of Sudan, and a man whose life had been scarred by war and exile and yet still shared a remarkably similar sensibility to hers. Soon thereafter, she began collaborating with his organization, Hope for Ariang, vowing to help his efforts to educate and empower women in the native village from which he was chased as a boy in 1987.

In the months and years following her encounter with Gabriel, Cynthia fought tirelessly to raise funds and public awareness for Hope for Ariang – becoming a Board Member in 2009 and playing a major role in raising funds to build the village’s first school. Through her efforts with Hope for Ariang, they raised $300,000 to construct an edifice housing 500 students. But there was more she knew she could do.

When Cynthia was nominated to become a Carl Wilken’s Fellow, a program to raise genocide awareness and build relationships with government representatives, she jumped at the chance and immediately went to DC where she met Rebecca Davis, who had already established a dance company for Darfur and Naomi Natale, an accomplished installation artist, photographer and social activist. They encouraged Cynthia to use her artistic gifts to further her efforts with Hope for Ariang. Through collaboration and with inspiration from these women, Cynthia created a grassroots art collective whose paintings create awareness for the plight of the South Sudanese and whose proceeds go to educate and empower the women of Ariang. She called the collective The Sudan Canvas Project.

In less than a year, forty-two artists have contributed to the The Sudan Canvas Project, many of whom, before their involvement, had barely been familiar with the humanitarian situation in Sudan. To contribute to the project, the artists involved must first gain an understanding of the conflict and engage the suffering and humanity of their subjects. The purpose of this is to inspire the artists to take action, because after delving into the lives and predicaments of the Darfuris, the artists become complicit in the efforts not just to raise awareness but also to actually do something about it – symbiosis between art and politics.

More than just paintings, the exhibit contains a number of photographs and interviews with women from the village – offering a detailed account of their lives and struggles. Such, Cynthia says, is the threefold purpose of the event: to create awareness, to educate and to empower the women of Ariang. Taken together, she hopes the exhibit will be a powerful call to action. Among the works will be one of her own – a painting in which three women lift their weathered arms in jubilation to welcome the return of a distant son. They were celebrating the return of Gabriel Bol Deng, the lost boy who had returned after twenty years in the wilderness to rekindle the flame of hope for Ariang.

You can visit the exhibit on November 27th in Connecticut. Click here for more information.

A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Evan has studied in Washington, New York, London and Paris, worked in Buenos Aires and Calcutta and lived in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Latin American, the Indian Continent and the Middle East. A historian by trade, he hopes to write, travel, talk and take pictures for a living.

Wolf Dog: How Far Would You Go to Save a Friend?

We are very excited to announce the launch of the Indie GoGo page for our newest client, Wolf Dog!

Wolf Dog is a narrative film based on the true story of New York’s oldest dog, Paco Sosa. As Paco’s life begins to come to a close, his owner, a New York Venture Capitalist named Bernadine,  begins to fear what her life will be without her friend of 20 years. Searching for ways to save Paco, and compelled by the wolf that haunts her dreams, Bernadine take  Paco back to her home town in New Mexico, where she confronts the family and friends she left behind and consults the ancientos of New Mexico for advise.

The film shows the power of friendship between dogs and their owners and, the strength those relationships give us.  When finished, Wolf Dog will be used to raise awareness and funds for various animal organizations.

Music for the film was donated byU2, Moby and Grammy award-winning Robert Mirabel, and with an Emmy and Oscar nominated and winning team behind it, Wolf Dog is guaranteed to have dog lovers cheering. BUT first the film must get finished, and to do that the filmmakers are seeking donations online through Indie GoGo. The money raised will go to the sound mixing, color correcting, animation (8 minutes of the film has animated traditional Navajo stories) and campaign management.

Watch the video to learn more about the film, and please consider supporting Wolf Dog.


Yeah, and I Studied Parakeets

By Ben Homrighausen

Picture of one of several death pits in the Ponari forest where 70,000 Jews where murdered during the Holocaust

Some months ago while walking in the fashionable neighborhood of Angel in London I was approached by a woman asking for directions. When she realized that I was American, she asked what I was doing in her country. I told her that I was studying the history of genocide, 20th century wars and ethnic cleansing at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Annoyed, she sarcastically responded, “Yeah, and I studied parakeets in Grad school”, and walked off angrily. To many people, the idea of devoting oneself to the study of genocide is not only foreign, but unbelievable. Thankfully, this is not the case at Righteous Pictures; I knew this as soon as I watched The Last Survivor.

It is one thing to passively study genocide and an entirely different thing to transform thoughts into art for the sake of social action; this is what specifically drew me to Righteous Pictures when I recently returned to the U.S. from Lithuania after a heart-rending, Everything-is-Illuminated-like-trip with my girlfriend’s family. Over the course of a week, her grandfather, one of a small group of Polish Holocaust survivors, led us around Vilnius, revisiting both his and his wife’s wonderful early adulthood as well as recounting their later horrific experiences of what they endured in the ghetto, work camps and hiding, during the war.  It was here that I was reminded of the need for action, as well as reflection, as I walked hand in hand with my girlfriend, alive today because of the efforts of some kind Poles who hid her grandparents at great personal risk.  Recognizing the incredible odds her grandparents overcame to survive once the Holocaust had begun, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Righteous Pictures, an organization that has allowed me to begin my own personal journey towards prevention of the world’s greatest crime.


Ben is a native of Greenwich Village, Manhattan. After spending several years abroad in Europe and Asia as an educator and student adviser, Ben returned to New York to work in the Disarmament and Peace, Political and Humanitarian Affairs Branches of the United Nations Secretariat. Before joining Righteous Pictures he returned to academia, graduating with top honors from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science with joint degrees in International and World History. His dissertation used Armenian oral history to document the role of Turkish altruism during the Armenian genocide.

Featured Project: Deaf Jam

What happens when slam poetry meets sign language? The result is an incredibly moving performance by two teens, one deaf and one hearing, as captured in the documentary Deaf Jam. On Thursday November 3rd, Judy Lieff’s documentary story on American Sign Language (ASL) poetry, Deaf Jam,  will premiere on PBS, and I highly recommend you watch it.

The film follows Aneta Brodski, a deaf teen in New York, as she is introduced to ASL Poetry and then boldly enters the spoken word slam scene. In a wondrous twist, Aneta  meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two women embark on a collaboration/performance duet – creating a new form of slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and the Deaf. The film shows how these deaf high school students grapple with being deaf and loving themselves and their friends as they are, and wanting to be a part of the hearing world. The poetry is expressive and moving, and made me wish I understood sign language so I could fully appreciate each poem.

Judy did a brilliant job with the film and we were honored when she came to Righteous Pictures for help with her online campaign. Working with See Creative Design, we gave the website a “facelift” by reorganizing the information and flow, creating a style guide so all the colors and imagery matched throughout, and built out the “See the Film” and “Get Involved” sections. We also launched and have kicked off the Facebook page, Twitter and blog for Deaf Jam and if you have any interested in sign language, deaf culture, or slam poetry, I encourage you to follow Deaf Jam on one or all of those platforms. We also created a page on VYou so ASL users can submit questions to Aneta or Judy through a video. We hope the film will continue to inspire discussion and that you will join in!

Join us on November 3rd for the broadcast premiere of Deaf Jam on PBS starting November 3rd, or host your own screening of the film.

Get Edutainted: On Edutainment and the Diffusion of new Ideas

Edutainment (yes, it’s a real word): “A form of entertainment designed to educate as well as amuse.” As a child I relied on Nick News with Linda Ellerbee to introduce me to the pressing issues of our time. An 8-year old suburbanite, I took a stand against homelessness and global warming by parading around the house espousing the cause of the day.

Over a decade later this affinity for Nick News, and edutainment more generally, has developed into a life-long love of documentary films. I am drawn to the artistry and creativity of filmmaking to convey meaningful information. Although I don’t always agree with the message, I appreciate the art of storytelling.

But whether leaving the cinema or sitting through the credits of a BBC America doc, a question arises- what now? What would bring a viewer to act after viewing a film? Righteous Pictures solves this problem by combining film production with social action. Being the nerd that I am, I set out to uncover the processes that lead to the diffusion of new ideas.Innovative ideas are anything perceived to be new and Everett Rogers is the godfather of the diffusion of innovations theory. In 1962, Rogers concluded that individuals move through five stages when presented with a new concept: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation, and Confirmation. A key element in diffusion is the communication channel, or the means through which messages are transferred from one individual to another. RP’s blend of filmmaking, new media, and social action is the ideal mechanism to facilitate the diffusion of ideas. Documentary films provide knowledge and persuasion, digital media offers a wealth of new communication channels, and social action programs lead to implementation and confirmation.

The diffusion of innovation follows an S-curve, where ideas take time to gain momentum before reaching a tipping point (see chart). So get on the logistic function: Watch a documentary, contribute to WEB,  attend an event, buy a bracelet, tweet, join a Facebook group… and embrace edutainment. Hopefully the world will be a little better off because of it.

As an internetologist and cinephile, Lauren is thrilled to be part of the RP team. Whether working as a professional dancer or developing programs at New York Presbyterian Hospital to improve health care delivery, Lauren has always been passionate about the arts and social causes. She graduated with two degrees from Cornell University, then journeyed across the pond to study at Oxford University and explore how digital communication impacts society. Her research analyzes the effects of Internet use on wellbeing and she has been invited to present at numerous conferences. As a member of the Oxford Rifle Club, it is unclear whether or not Lauren has become an international spy. However, she continues to explore how ICTs and media can be used to facilitate social change.

Newsletter: October 2011


We have not forgotten about you! It’s been a busy summer with lots of exciting new changes and projects for RP.  FIrst, we have officially relocated to New York City! Second, we’ve hit the ground running in our new hometown:  Our social action team has been working on a range of films and campaigns and our production team has just returned from shooting a new project in Uganda.

Here is  everything RP is working on, and how YOU can get involved:

The Last Survivor We  have begun work on The Last Survivor Classroom Action Project – the educational initiative to complement our first feature length documentary,The Last Survivor. We plan to kick off our outreach to hundreds of classrooms in January 2012. If your school would like to participate, please email us. You can also help by donating; the more we raise, the more schools we can reach.

WEB We are almost done editing our second feature length documentary! And, we want you to be in it. Send us a picture or video that exemplifies the moment you realized the internet and mobile technology has made us a hyperconnected global society.

peaceBOMB Article 22, a sustainable fashion company,  launched a jewelry line made out of  exploded bomb material in Laos. We launched their documentary on YouTube and received 11,000 views in a week! Money from their jewelry goes to the artisans in Laos and local NGOs who are clearing their land of bombs. Get one of their gorgeous bracelets here.

To Catch a Dollar To Catch a Dollar is a Sundance documentary that chronicles the launch of Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus’s unique and revolutionary microfinance program in the United States. Our social action team helped launch this film in theaters in New York and Los Angeles in September, and kicked off their Economic Empowerment community screening and educational tour. Bring the film to your school or community.

Deaf Jam A part of PBS’s ITVS series, Deaf Jam is the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word slam scene. Our social action team has been running the documentary’s online campaign and website redesign. See the film on PBS on November 3rd. Check your local listings.

Women War & Peace During the summer, our social action team had the honor of working on the online campaign for the PBS series, produced by Abigail Disney. Help us out by liking the Facebook page.

Thank you for your support as our company grows. We have some exciting changes coming up and we look forward to sharing them with you. And, look out for our next email where we will tell you all about why we were in Uganda and the adventures we had…

Our Very Best,
Team Righteous


Becoming Billionaires of Moments

By Renee Mylnaryk

The measure of your success is how many breathtaking moments you create that matter to the world.

Also, that statement is not actually true. Yet.

But it was my favorite insight gleaned from Lakshmi Pratury during last week’s Influencer Conference NYC.

For those of us in the realm of social good, the speakers on stage acknowledged: we craft clear, concise and actionable messages, then talk about success through output numbers and data. Meanwhile, Lakshmi suggested, the most successful influencers among us are “billionaires of moments”, not dollars raised, people served, or even behaviors changed. Because a lightening bolt moment usually precedes each of these eventual results. It might be my new single bottom line. Until more leaders readily recognize this, though, it can’t be collectively, publicly true.

This does sound grandiose; although in practice, when a social campaign or visual storytelling gets breathtaking, it can often be the exact opposite. What blows many of us away is the simple, the unexpected, and the highly specific.

Consider what happened back inside the Influencer Conference room when creative Jonathan Harris went up to speak. He moved to a cabin in Oregon last year and started a new ritual: take one photo each day, write a story about it, and post online before sleeping. After showing us photos of gentle, dying wildlife, he landed on this image (above).

“This one said: split up, but still close together,” Jonathan told us.

For one moment, the quiet crowd grew more silent.

Kind of…breathtaking.

Check out more photos here.

Renee Mylnaryk  joins Righteous Pictures after promoting educational equality as a Volunteer Coordinator at A former painter and publicist with a growing fascination in social enterprise, Renee realized her dual interest in visual storytelling and social change were perfectly merged in documentary film. She now enjoys hunting online for interesting contributions to the WEB film and campaign.

The Good Life?

By Emily Bierwirth

Flipping through radio stations on a drive back from Boston this weekend, there were a few tunes I could not escape — namely “The Good Life” by One Republic. As I listened to the poppy positive messages, I could not help but think about the thousands of protestors currently gathering in cities around the nation and wonder: would they agree with the lyrics from this hit song that has ruled the radio for months?

One thing the protestors partaking in Occupy Wall Street might agree upon is that the supposed “good life” is a luxury only afforded to the top 1% earning Americans. For the other 99%, life comes with struggles to obtain health care, education, and job security. Now, the bottom 99% is speaking out. According to their website, Occupy Wall Street was “Inspired by the popular assemblies of Egypt, Spain, Oaxaca and worldwide, [and] those gathered will work to find a common voice in one clear, unified demand.”

So, what do the protestors demand exactly? This question is precisely the main point of contention in recent media coverage of the event. The movement has been largely criticized by various news stations for its lack of specific demands. Without an obvious goal, the group appears to some unfocused. However, to expect one list of demands misses the point of this gathering entirely. There are thousands of protestors and each has their own list of grievances to voice.

At least one demand is clear: the policies that dictate American life need to change. So, the next time I hear One Republic’s incessant question “Please tell me what there’s to complain about?” I’ll have an answer: a lot. Stay tuned.

Here’s to keeping the atmosphere light in a heavy situation:

Emily Bierwirth is the PR and Marketing Intern for Righteous Pictures. Emily is a documentary film enthusiast and a avid traveler, recently graduated from Colby College where she majored in Anthropology and studied abroad in Argentina. Inspired by the hordes of documentaries she watched throughout her academic career, Emily decided to make a documentary of her own called The Flash Club. This film focused on her creation and execution of a Flash Mob Dance at Colby, and the potential uses of Flash Mobs for social action. Aside from her love of films and exploring the world, Emily has a passion for dancing. Her goal is to turn everyday day life into a musical!

Mapendo International is now RefugePoint

By @ChristieM

Mapendo International has today announced that it is changing its name to RefugePoint in order to better reflect its core mission of protecting the world’s most vulnerable and forgotten refugees.

If you saw our film The Last Survivor, then you are probably familiar with Mapendo International. Mapendo was also founded by Sasha Chanoff, who helped resettle Justin Semahoro in St. Louis in the film (see video below). Now called RefugePoint, their rescue resettlement efforts, health clinic, and advocacy campaigns will continue to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees in Africa, ensuring that forgotten victims of persecution, massacre and atrocities are brought from danger to safety.

According to Sasha Chanoff, RefugePoint’s executive director, many refugees have related to their staff that contact with his organization became the turning point in their lives. “Our effort,” he says, “is to provide lasting solutions for people fleeing from persecution, war, and genocide. The new name, RefugePoint, reflects the moment when those most at risk see the possibility of deliverance from lives of fear and desperation and a path opening up toward new lives for themselves and their families.”

Many of the world’s 10.4 million refugees exist in life-threatening situations. While some languish in overcrowded refugee camps, an increasing number flee to urban slum areas where they struggle to survive without even the barest of safety nets. In Africa they come from the Congo, Darfur, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Zimbabwe, and other countries and regions. The international community can barely shelter and feed the majority, much less tend to the unique needs of those who are truly forsaken and forgotten. “RefugePoint’s entire effort,” Chanoff says, “is to reach and succor these people whose struggle to survive would otherwise go unaddressed.

In the past six years RefugePoint has provided life-saving interventions and helped to create lasting solutions for over 20,000 refugees in Africa. RefugePoint staff have worked in Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. RefugePoint works with national governments, the UN Refugee Agency and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to enhance and improve systems to address the needs of vulnerable refugees in Africa and worldwide.

Visit their new site at

Watch The Last Survivor for FREE

By @ChristieM

We are proud to announce that The Last Survivor is now Available on SnagFilms!

Did you know that June 20th is World Refugee Day? We hope that you will join us in recognizing this day by watching The Last Survivor with your friends and family. As you may know, the documentary follows four survivors of genocide and mass atrocities – Congo, Darfur, Rwanda, and the Holocaust – as they rebuild their lives and become advocates for change. This brilliant, moving and highly entertaining documentary is a great way to not only learn more about these atrocities and genocide prevention efforts, but also really understand the life of a refugee through these incredible stories.  Prepare to be inspired.

Please help us increase awareness and engage people across the country to stop genocide. Here is how:

Watch The Last Survivor for free now! Don’t forget to hit “like” and give it a 5 star rating. Then share it with your friends and followers on all of your networks. Here are some suggested status updates:

Commemorate #worldrefugeeday by watching The Last Survivor with your friends and family

Support #worldrefugeeday on June 20th by getting to know refugees in your community

What are you doing to support #worldrefugeeday? Here are some suggestions!

You can even grab the widget to put on your blog or website.

Watch more free documentaries

Check out the short interview with the film’sdirectors. Want to interview them yourselves? Email They will take the first 10 requests! If you need pictures for your blog post, just visit our Flickr page.


As every film takes on a life and journey of its own-did this end up being the film you ‘intended’ to make? If it did change along the way, in what regard?
When the film was first conceived, the idea was to make a documentary about the current lives of Holocaust Survivors – their struggles today, their ability to rebuild their lives after the trauma they suffered, and their hopes for the future of our world. That film was set to focus on a reunion of Survivors called Cafe Europa that occurs in cities all over the world. Several times a years, Survivors in New York, Miami, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and other major cities across the globe, come together at banquets to dance, to reconnect with friends, to seek out lost relatives and loved ones, and celebrate the lives they still have. It was during preliminary research on the documentary then titled Cafe Europa that we learned of a woman in Stockholm named Hédi Fried, who in 1984 started a social therapy group for her community of Survivors (called Cafe 84). The unique model called for a weekly gathering of Survivors, uniting to talk, to play, to sing and dance, in short to live. After working in her own community, Hédi, herself a committed activist, began working with other communities of Survivors – from Bosnia, from Rwanda and Darfur – helping them transcend the horrors they faced. And so in many ways it was Hédi who made us realize that to accomplish our goals of making a film about genocide that was forward thinking, we would need to consider not only the Holocaust, but subsequent tragedies and the vow of Never Again that the world has broken over and over in the 65 years since the Holocaust was finally brought to an end. It was that realization that birthed The Last Survivor and the rest was history.

Both of you had personal interests in the subject matter prior to filming. What were you most surprised to learn during this process?

What surprised us most was the realization that the process of genocide is a rather predictable one. When you look at the formation of the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and that in Darfur side by side, there are undeniable similarities in terms of how each tragedy evolved. When we realized this fact, we both became strong supporters of the idea of Genocide Prevention – a recognition of this fact that insists the best way to prevent future genocides is to intervene during early stages before the violence ever reaches the scale that we see now in places like Darfur and Congo. One of our goals in presenting these four stories in the context of the same film was to highlight those similarities and allow the audience to realize, as we did, that Genocide is a crime that can be stopped before it truly begins. A fact that is often lost when you look at each incident in isolation.

If you had to boil it down to one thing, what is it you hope viewers take away from this film?

We hope that viewers come away from The Last Survivor with a deeper understanding for the crime of genocide but even further we hope that the stories of these remarkable individuals inspire viewers to do something with that new knowledge – to act when they recognize injustice in the world, whether they are in their own country or seemingly worlds away. We hope that the film helps viewers recognize the common bonds of humanity that unite all of us – the very commonalities that require us to fight for others, to speak for them and stand up for them when they cannot do so for themselves. And above all else, we hope audiences will leave feeling energized that they can personally make a difference because there are infinite ways to get involved; there is no singular form of activism. Right now we are working with a coalition of partners to host events on and around World Refugee Day (June 20th) with the goal of connecting refugees and non-refugees in the U.S. Each event will be unique to the people involved and we hope that everyone can learn from each other’s experiences, and then together become a stronger force against genocide.


What about this film are you most proud of?
From very early on, our goal was to make a film about genocide that was at its core a hopeful one. That’s not a very easy combination. In watching the film, one is left with a sense of possibility – that although we as a global society have committed unspeakable acts against one another, by believing we can do better and then actively working to make that belief a reality, we can all move forward. In short, after watching the film, one is left, with a sense of hope. That is the aspect of this film that we are most proud of.

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“The Internet is My Religion”

by @ChristieM

I spent the last two days at one of the best conferences I have attended to date, the Personal Democracy Forum. The talks were inspiring, the speakers were brilliant and the attendees were some of the most creative, talented and motivated people I have met. But I think what really made this conference memorable for me was Jim Gilliam’s talk about the Internet and his religion – and the internet being his religion. Any further description I write will not do it justice, so I encourage you to just watch it and share.

A True Gentleman

By @samuelg44

On the day of my Great Uncle’s funeral, I met the man whose life he saved.

Last month I spent a day in Newcastle, Delaware at the funeral of my Great Uncle, Miles Bart. He was 82 years old.

For over 40 years, Miles Bart suffered from manic depression. Prior to succumbing to this disease and spiraling into a 20-year stint of unrelenting depression, Miles was a rocket scientist who built the very first fuel rods that sent our NASA rockets up to space. He was a brilliant and charming man, and as one of his first co-workers described him at the funeral service, “a true gentleman.”

At the funeral Miles was eulogized by 6 people; five close family members, and a man that no one recognized. This gentleman didn’t say his name or why he was there, but when my cousin asked if anyone would like to share their thoughts about Miles Bart, this man stood and walked quietly and resolutely to the podium.

He began to describe the social work that was so dear to my Uncles Miles. In 1991 he founded an organization called New Directions – which sought to help those who suffered from depression by providing therapy hotlines and organizing support groups. This man also explained my Uncle’s initial impetus for starting New Directions: one day in the peak of his depression, Miles had decided to take his own life. As he stood on the precipice of a cliff, he asked God to send him a sign. – and He did – in the form of deafening thunder. And so my uncle stepped down, turned around, and started New Directions.

This man at the podium, who no one knew, ended his eulogy with one of the most poignant moments I have ever witnessed. One day, about 15 years ago, he too had decided to end his life. Before doing so, he gave himself one last chance and decided to call the New Directions hotline. On the other end of that line was my great Uncle Miles. This man said that Miles Bart saved his life, and because of this phone call, he was able to cope with his illness and eventually went on to build a family of his own.

While my Uncle and I were not close while he was alive, this story has inspired me. Uncle Miles has shown me how one person can make a profound difference in the lives of others.

In closing, I guess I just wanted to say that, like my Great Uncle did, please take a moment today to make a difference in someone’s life. And never doubt the power of the smallest act of compassion. It just might save a life.

Justin Bieber and Schools4All

By @ChristieM

Last night my family and I celebrated my sister’s graduation from high school. We had all the makings of a proper graduation party: cake, gifts, paper graduation hats…and a life size cut out of Justin Bieber. My sister, like a few million other girls in the world, is a die-hard Justin Bieber fan. So the cards of graduation money were tossed aside, and her boyfriend pushed out of the way when the 6 foot tall Biebs cut-out came around the corner.

Her enthusiasm reminded me that today  is the Justin Bieber led, Pencils of Promise Blogging Day of Action! PoP founder Adam Braun is a much loved friend of Righteous Pictures and we are so thrilled to hear that he and Pencils of Promise have already built THIRTY schools around the world. To continue their great work, they have recently teamed up with the Biebs for their Schools4All initiative, which enables individuals and communities to fundraise locally to build schools globally. And we think you should join them.

Why should you do this? PoP gets it. They know that you can’t just go in, throw up four walls, and say you have built a school. They work with local leaders and education officials by listening to their needs, they hire locally for the construction and engage the community in maintaining their school, and they help train teachers to ensure long term success.

We are so proud to join Adam, Justin and the hundreds of other bloggers using our typing skillz for good! If you want Justin Bieber to come to your community, or you just want to help build schools to help provide children in need with an education, please start a fundraiser for your community or donate to one that has already been created at

P.S. “Hide the Bieber” has now become a game in my parents house. So far I have successfully freaked out my stepdad by hiding Bieber in the laundry room, and delighted my sister by hiding Bieber under her bed covers. Currently seeking creative places to hide him next. Any suggestions?

NBA’s new PR campaign: “Think B4 You Speak”

by @tsweens

Maybe as a response to Kobe’s mid-game gay slur, maybe as a response to Suns CEO, Rick Welts, coming out, the NBA has launched a new PR campaign. “Think B4 You Speak” aims to “raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in Americas schools. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce and prevent the use of homophobic language in an effort to create a more positive environment for LGBT teens.”

Here’s their first PSA: