film production + social action

Posts Tagged ‘film’

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.

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.

Blog also posted on

The Challenge of Adaptation

By @samuelg44

Water for Elephants book cover

For as far back as I can remember I have wanted to make movies. Many of my all-time favorites were best-selling novels subsequently adapted to film. Successful adaptations range from classics like Gone with the Wind and Forrest Gump to the more recent successes like No Country for Old Men and The Social Network. Its why I endeavor to find literary properties that are unknown “diamonds in the rough” and ripe for film adaptation.

I just came home from seeing Water for Elephants, which has me re-thinking my personal strategy as it pertains to adaptations. I read the best-selling novel in 2008 while studying abroad in London. To say I loved it would be an understatement; I laughed and cried and flew through the book in just a couple of hours. It’s the definition of a “page turner.” However, the film version (which wasn’t all that bad by the way) provides the perfect example of an adaptation that falls short of immortalizing the original material the way it should or could have. Seabiscuit is another film I enjoyed immensely, but didn’t hold a candle to the book and garnered the same frustration from me. These examples beg the question: must every piece of literature be exploited by Hollywood?

It didn’t take much resonating on the question for me to come up with the answer. Yes. Absolutely. Positively. I cannot tell you how many friends, after seeing the trailer for Water for Elephants, went out, bought the book and read it before the highly anticipated blockbuster flic was released. Yes, they were disappointed as I was by the film, but they had nothing but love for the book. I tend to forget that a symbiotic relationship exists between filmmakers and novelists.

So…adapt away Hollywood. Just do your best to make more Forrest Gumps than Lazy Shlumps.

Samuel Goldberg is a producer for Righteous Pictures and his blog posts cover film industry news and reactions to screenings of The Last Survivor. You can follow him on Twitter @samuelg44

The Last Survivor: Where Are They Now?

By @samuelg44

Hedi Fried with Directors Michael Kleiman (left) and Michael Pertnoy (right) in 2010

Tuesday night I attended a screening of The Last Survivor at the JCC of Manhattan on 76th and Amsterdam Avenue. One thing I love about attending screenings of our film, other than witnessing it’s consistently profound effect on an audience, is that each one is totally unique. This is not only a reflection of a well-made film, but also a reinforcement that the work we are doing is something people are actively searching for; at a screening of The Last Survivor, they find it.

That night, during the Q&A, a particular question and the response director Michael Kleiman gave put a big smile on my face. Yitzi Zablocki, the organizer of tonight’s event and head of the JCC film department, asked Kleiman, “What is going on in the lives of these survivors today?” Kleiman proceeded to answer:

- Justin’s brother and sister, along with their 27 adopted children, are likely to be resettled to St. Louis with Justin by the end of this year.

- Adam is in his 3rd year at IDC University in Herzliya, is a model student, and has become the perfect spokesperson for African refugees in Israel.

- Hedi continues to travel, inspiring others to join her mission of raising awareness and connecting survivors from around the world.

- Jacqueline got married last summer and recently took her first trip back home to visit Rwanda.

Can one imagine a more incredible update than that? Each of the survivors profiled in our film has continued doing incredible work and have only grown and thrived since allowing us to document their lives. I couldn’t help but make the clear connection that the success in their personal lives is intricately linked to the phenomenal human rights work they are engaged in.

On a personal level, I can certainly say the same for myself. Justin, Jacqueline, Hedi and Adam have all taught me that life isn’t only about perseverance, but it is about flourishing, growing and reaching out to affect others in a meaningful way.

Over and out-
Sam G

Grey Matter: Rwanda’s First Feature Length Narrative Film

By Kate Goodman

Last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, I had the privilege of seeing the film Grey Matter (Matière Grise). Written and directed by Kivu Ruhorahoza, Grey Matter is actually the first feature length narrative film made in Rwanda by a Rwandan filmmaker. After reading the small synopsis provided by the film festival, I was still unsure of what kind of movie Grey Matter would be and what kind of story it would tell. I was pleasantly surprised to see a visually striking, incredibly thoughtful, and profound film. (Grey Matter received a Special Jury Mention at Tribeca for “for its audacious and experimental approach, this film speaks of recent horrors and genocide with great originality.” The Jury “wanted to give a special commendation to this filmmaker for his courage and vision.”) While watching the film, I kept coming back to Jacqueline’s story in The Last Survivor. “The burden of surviving,” as Jacqueline described her feelings following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and how Rwandans’ manage their burden is the heart of Grey Matter.

The film contains three separate, yet intertwining, stories each with very different main subjects. The film opens on Balthazar, a young filmmaker attempting to find funding for his newest project, but who is met with roadblocks at every turn. He tries to petition the government for a grant, but is turned down because his film focuses too much on the past. Balthazar’s government contact explains that the government would rather look forward, to positive projects like government’s new AIDS awareness programs or their efforts to combat domestic violence, instead of backwards to the genocide. Kivu Ruhorahoza explained in a Q&A after the screening that Balthazar is a representation of himself and his own struggle to get his film made. Kivu finally found financial support in an Australian production company and finished his film there.

The second vignette is Balthazar’s film, which portrays a man locked in a mental institution, simply known as “the Madman.” The Madman relives the genocide in his room, conveyed by his interactions with a literal cockroach he captured in a glass jar (cockroach was a commonly used epithet during the genocide used to dehumanize Tutsi’s). The Madman, clearly a murderer during the genocide, represents the section of the Rwandan population that was not only complacent to, but also actively took part in the genocide. Kivu uses this section of the film, through the Madman’s delusions, to illustrate what Rwanda was like leading up to and during the genocide. He hears the now infamous radio broadcasts encouraging citizens to “hunt the cockroaches” and sees hands come through his barred window to applaud his rape of the captured cockroach. (Kivu makes his position on the international communities’ role in the genocide evident when the segment ends with the first pair of white hands to come through the Madman’s window giving him the keys to his room and let him loose.)

The final and longest section of the film portrays Yvan and Justine, brother and sister Survivors, years after the genocide trying to rebuild their lives. Yvan, portrayed by Ramadhan “Shami” Bizimana who won Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film at Tribeca, suffers from intense Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, constantly wears a motorcycle helmet decorated in American paraphernalia, and cannot leave their bleak home. Justine (who Kivu explains in this interview with the director represents strong Rwandan women) holds what remains of their family together by selling herself to pay for her brother’s medical bills. In the Q&A, Kivu explained that he began writing this particular story in the immediate aftermath of the genocide as a way of dealing with his own survivor’s guilt. Sent away to stay with his ailing grandmother, Kivu was not present during the genocide while the rest of his family remained in Kigali and suffered the genocide first hand. Getting this film made and out for the world to see has been his mission ever since.

Grey Matter offers a rare narrative insight into the “burden of surviving” for multiple sectors of the Rwandan population. Kivu transformed his catharsis into a poignant representation of how genocide so deeply impacts individuals and how survivors manage to move on. During the screening, I also wondered how this film, being the first feature length fictional film from Rwanda, will impact not only the Rwandan people, but also Rwandan culture. Following the film, Kivu spoke briefly about the state of filmmaking in Rwanda today. New institutions are being formed to sponsor more filmmaking endeavours, from documentaries to short and feature length narrative film. Speaking as a huge film fanatic and someone who deeply understands how film both reflects and impacts a national culture, I hope that more films will continue to be made as Rwandans rebuild and grapple with the “burden of surviving.”

Grey Matter Trailer:

They Could Be Us

By Bree Barton

This week, I had the privilege of seeing The Last Survivor as a part of the Fight On For Darfur program at USC. It has been almost a year to the day since I saw the film in its entirety—at its festival debut in Dallas for the Dallas International Film Festival, April 2010.

When I saw the film a year ago, I was deeply moved. The film gripped me on many levels, both aesthetically and emotionally. I remember a patchwork of images and moments that spoke to me, to such an extent that I was moved to speak as well . . . hence why I approached one of the film’s two directors, Michael Pertnoy, afterwards to offer my services as a writer.

And here I am.

Seeing the film a year later, I remembered all the reasons it moved me. The artistry is evident; it’s gorgeously shot, exquisitely edited, and the four survivors’ stories are woven together like an elegant silk tapestry, each flowing seamlessly into the next. But of course the beauty of this film is in the stories it tells, and the lives it so poignantly captures. A year later, after learning more about Justin, Jacqueline, Hedi, and Adam—in fact I can proudly say I am now Facebook friends with two of them—I felt more connected to their stories, more personally involved. After the honor of writing about them, and detailing so many other stories for the RP blog, this issue feels nearer to me now than it did when I sat in a dark auditorium twelve months ago.

Mariet, aged 30, a refugee from Ivory Coast, now in LiberiaThe first time I saw The Last Survivor, I cried at the injustice of the tragedies suffered by four strangers. The second time I saw it, I cried because it felt like those strangers had become my friends.

And therein lies the beauty of the film. Not to mention the work the RP team is doing in general. Because it is in this very sense of connection, this sense of “Hey—those people are just like me,” that the seeds of genocide prevention must be sown.

This idea seems all the more relevant as I’ve been reading about the Ivory Coast. On April 11th, former Ivorian President Gbagbo was finally arrested after four months of chaotic violence and civil war. Both France and the UN were involved in the arrest, and today, one week later, it appears that the country is inching slowly toward peace. But the scars are fresh: a massacre in Duekoue that killed 800 people; a drive-by shooting of peaceful women protestors; and over a million people who, fleeing the violence, are now displaced.

It is this last issue—the return of these displaced persons to their homes—that seems so relevant to me. Mark Hackett of Operation Broken Silence has been chronicling the series of events in his astute and thoughtful blog. Mark writes, “Another concern is the civilian population itself, particularly the one million who fled Abidjan alone. The jumble of neighborhoods which took sides in the conflict will soon, once again, be living next to one another. Some elements within these communities are also responsible for violence against opposing neighborhoods. Implementing justice in these areas, if it ever is implemented, will be no easy task.”

I cannot help but think of Jacqueline, who speaks in The Last Survivor about her neighbors—the very neighbors whose children she had played with, the very neighbors whose children her mother had fed dozens of times, and the very neighbors who, when the genocide started in Rwanda, rounded up Jacqueline’s entire family, took them to the river, and slaughtered them with machetes.

It is a frightening thing, what neighbors can be capable of. And how boundaries disintegrate the moment that people look at their fellow men and women and say, “No. They are not like us.”

The wounds in the Ivory Coast run deep, and as Hackett points out, no one is innocent. “Revenge killings could skyrocket,” he writes, “as troops loyal to either side could strike at civilian components of the original ‘other side.’”

Sides. Divisions. Loyalties. They all hinge on one thing: differences. Walls put up. Lines drawn. People defined by what and who they are not. And as long as these supposed differences continue to be inculcated, people will fail to see the ways in which we are exactly the same.

And so I think, more than ever, that a film like The Last Survivor has a vital place in the world. Because what directors Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleiman have so beautifully depicted is the fact that these four brave, wonderful, extraordinary people are, in so many ways, people just like us. They could be us, and we could be them. And the day we accept that, the day we truly come to terms with what that means . . . the idea of “the last survivor” will move from hopeful theory into potent truth.