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Community Cinema tells of young change-agents in Calcutta's slums

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 1, 2013 - People in St. Louis -- a city that loves its brick -- likely cannot imagine what the conditions are for those producing contemporary bricks in third world countries. Tonight, Community Cinema presents “The Revolutionary Optimists,” which brings us into Calcutta’s slums where children are working in unimaginable conditions to produce bricks.

The film will be broadcast at a later date as part of Independent Lens on Nine PBS. The Community Cinema Series is a partnership among Nine Network, Independent Television Service and museum.

The film follows Amlan Ganguly, a former attorney who has empowered children and made them excited to educate their village on the importance of getting vaccinations, having access to clean drinking water and education. The messages are translated through the arts, and the film captures the unbelievable successes that have occurred because of efforts of children.

“If you want to start any kind of change, start it with the children. They are the greatest change makers because they believe that we can do something,” says Ganguly in the film.

“Revolution Optimist” was filmed over three and a half years. It follows Ganguly and some of the children he worked with, was they use theater, dance and data to turn garbage dumps into playing fields, cut malaria and diarrhea rates in half, and increased polio vaccination rates.

The film introduces us to characters such as 11-year-old Kajol who lives inside a brick field, where Ganguly sets up a makeshift school inside the brick field. Kajol makes a quick connection, but the film does more than look at positive change. It includes the death of her mother, demonstrating the real conflict between survival and change.

The film also follows Shika and Salim, 12-year-old best friends start a 3 kilometer walk every morning at 4 a.m. to take water from the neighboring slum. They too link up with Ganguly and feel empowered to start mapping and collecting data to persuade the Colony Committee that their neighborhood deserved clean tap water.  

“Revolutionary Optimists” will be shown at the Missouri History Museum at 7 p.m. May 1, with a youth-led panel discussion to follow. One of the major themes of the film is youth leaders that are making positive change happen in their communities.

Young leaders who will help provide post-film information include:  
Anna Robson and Maleeha Habib from MICDS
Jacqueline Cox with University City Youth Society from Cardinal Ritter Prep
Jordan Mosley an officer withRep. Clay's Congressional Youth Cabinet from Cardinal Ritter Prep
Brendon Bush with the Tickets to Success program from Cardinal Ritter Prep
Student with the River Kids from New City School
Teen from Angel Baked Cookies
Teen from the Sophia Project

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